Atlantic City International Airport, in Egg Harbor Township

Vernon Ogrodnek

United Airlines will launch nonstop flights to Atlantic City International Airport from Chicago and Houston on April 1, giving a major economic boost to a market now served by only one scheduled airline.

Gov. Chris Christie and United CEO Jeff Smisek announced the new flights during a press conference Thursday at Newark Liberty International Airport, a United hub.

“For our tourism-based economy, connecting additional regions of the country to South Jersey is critical and will bring additional economic opportunities and the potential for new jobs,”  said U.S. Congressman Frank LoBiondo.

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“I thank Governor Christie for fostering a business-friendly climate that has enabled New Jersey to remain a critical hub for global aviation,” Smisek said. “United’s new Atlantic City service will drive business, tourism and economic development throughout the southern part of the state.”

Christie said the new service “speaks volumes that a company like United Airlines recognizes the full and future potential of Atlantic City International Airport. The decision to bring air service to the seaside resort opens Atlantic City and Atlantic City International to the world while expanding travel service opportunities for the people of the South Jersey region.”

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney noted the United flights are the product of a new relationship between the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the airport owner, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which took over as Atlantic City International’s operator in July.

“Having an airline like United in Atlantic City is a tremendous opportunity for the entire South Jersey region,” Sweeney said. “This will not only provide an economic boost for Atlantic City and the region, it will also help alleviate congested air space in the Philadelphia and New York areas.”

From Chicago, United’s flight to Atlantic City will depart at 8:10 a.m. daily, arriving at 11:17 a.m. The return flight will depart Atlantic City at 11:52 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 1:10 p.m.

From Houston, United’s flight to Atlantic City will depart at 7 p.m. daily, arriving at 11:20 p.m. The return flight will depart Atlantic City at 6 a.m. and arrive in Houston at 8:49 a.m.

United Express carrier ExpressJet will operate the Atlantic City flights with 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft.

Chicago and Houston are United’s largest hub airports. The airline’s new flights will enable one-stop service between Atlantic City and points throughout the Midwest and western United States, Canada, Asia and Latin America.

Atlantic City International has struggled this year, suffering a 25 percent drop in scheduled airline passengers blamed on the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy. Figures compiled by the South Jersey Transportation Authority show the airport has handled 767,385 scheduled airline passengers through September, compared with slightly more than 1 million for the same period in 2012.

The airport currently is served by only one scheduled carrier, Spirit Airlines, which flies to the Florida cities of Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach and the golfing mecca of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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