NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Avelo Airlines’ first nonstop flight from Tweed New Haven Airport to San Juan, Puerto Rico, took off Wednesday morning.
Many officials and leaders took the 7:30 a.m. inaugural flight and will attend a quick celebratory reception in San Juan and then return to New Haven just after 5 p.m. Wednesday.
“I’m very excited to connect with my family on the island,” said Juan Candelaria, state representative. “It just took me 10 minutes to get here.”
Avelo announced this expansion in August with fanfare and music from the Caribbean. The flight marks the airline’s expansion to the Caribbean, just in time for winter, and it also offers the opportunity to reunite many people in the New Haven community with their relatives in Puerto Rico.
“Being able to just jump on a plane, it took me 10-15 minutes to get here,” said Abraham Santiago, one of the flight passengers. “It’s really important to go back and re-connect with family.”
Many local officials see the expansion of Avelo and the proposed expansion of Tweed-New Haven Airport as very good for the economic development of the New Haven area, especially with the growing number of Puerto Rican residents.
“25,000 strong in the New Haven area, roughly 90,000 within the New Haven-Milford metro area and roughly 285,000 in the state of Connecticut,” said Joseph Rodriguez, the president of Connecticut Puerto Ricans United.
Even though Wednesday’s flight is sold out, the plane will be partially full. To carry enough fuel to make it to Puerto Rico, the aircraft must have empty seats to be light enough to take off on the short runway. The expansion proposal includes expanding the runway and building a new terminal on the East Haven side of the airport.
Some neighbors oppose the proposal, citing noise, lead pollution, harm to wetlands and other concerns.