Caesars Entertainment seems to be borrowing from the old Frank Sinatra song, “Come Fly With Me.”
The casino giant is partnering with Republic Airways for new charter flights that will carry an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 visitors a year to Atlantic City for gambling, hotel and entertainment packages starting in early January.
Don Marrandino, president of the Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat casinos in Atlantic City owned by Caesars Entertainment, said expanded air service is key for rebuilding the resort town’s customer base following Hurricane Sandy’s damaging blow to the local economy.
“It’s more important now than ever to get people to come here,” he said.
The charter flights will allow Caesars to broaden its reach outside of the typical drive-in markets to bring more overnight visitors to Atlantic City. Marrandino mentioned Cleveland, Toronto, Montreal and Richmond, Va., as the types of cities that Caesars hopes to tap.
“They eat, shop and enjoy the Boardwalk and everything else in town. They’ve always been a huge component,” Marrandino said of the importance of charter passengers.
Overall, Caesars will team with Republic to fly casino customers to Atlantic City from 30 to 40 cities. Marrandino declined to disclose the routes or schedules, citing proprietary reasons in the ultra-competitive casino industry.
The new deal with Republic will allow Caesars to expand its charter service over previous years. In the past year, Caesars flew more than 400 flights to Atlantic City from 30 to 40 cities along the Eastern Seaboard, Marrandino said.
“We have a pretty robust plane program that we’re looking to make even bigger,” he said. “We’re going to fly more planes than last year. That’s our strategy, and obviously we’re reaching farther out there. We’ll bring 30,000 to 35,000 people to town.”
In addition to the Republic deal, Caesars will operate flights with other charter operators, including the locally based Gold Transportation. Marrandino said Caesars uses Gold and other operators for about 50 flights per month.
Caesars Entertainment, the world’s largest casino company, has entered into a three-year deal with Republic for flights to Caesars casinos in Atlantic City, Tunica, Miss., and Laughlin, Nev. Flights will operate using 99-passenger regional jets. Marrandino noted that the Republic jets will be more fuel efficient than the 130-seat aircraft that Caesars previously used for Atlantic City charters.
Atlantic City International Airport is hopeful that Republic will use the casino charter flights to test the market for possible scheduled service in the future. The airport, located about 10 miles outside Atlantic City in Egg Harbor Township, currently is limited to only one scheduled carrier, Spirit Airlines. Airport officials are eager to sign up new carriers following a $25 million expansion project that has added new gates, a bigger baggage-claim area and a federal station for processing international travelers.
“If they increase the number of charters, it will benefit us to the extent of more landing fees, they will buy more fuel and those types of things,” Kevin Rehmann, a spokesman for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the airport operator, said of the Republic flights.
Rehmann noted that Republic already has entered the New Jersey market. Republic’s Frontier Airlines subsidiary launched scheduled service in November out of Trenton-Mercer Airport to Orlando, Fla. Frontier plans to add flights from Trenton to New Orleans and the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and Tampa beginning in January and February.
“I certainly think we have more to offer than Trenton,” Rehmann said. “Anytime that they can give us additional service will be great.”
Indianapolis-based Republic flies smaller, regional jets to feed traffic to major airlines, including United, Delta, American and US Airways. Peter Kowalchuk, a Republic spokesman, downplayed the possibility of starting scheduled service to Atlantic City. For the time being, Republic will concentrate on the charter flights to the Caesars casinos, he said.
“We fly a schedule with city pairs and times and frequencies set by our customer, which is Caesars. We will fly their schedule,” Kowalchuk said.
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