Baton Rouge travelers will be able to take direct flights into Orlando, Florida, and Austin, Texas, beginning Sept. 13 as the Metro Airport tries to expand its offerings for leisure passengers.
Via Airlines will ferry fliers into the Texas capital on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays departing Baton Rouge at 1:38 p.m. and will have flights departing Austin at 11:45 a.m. to Baton Rouge on those days. The central Florida flights will leave on Mondays and Thursdays from Baton Rouge at 1:48 p.m. and depart from Orlando to Baton Rouge at 11:45 a.m.
The airline plans to sell about the first 10 percent of one-way tickets for $99. The next decile would cost about $129, then prices would raise to $159, said Donald Bowman, Via’s director of planning and business development. However, he emphasized the pricing structure on any given flight is subject to change. Checked bags cost $25 to $35 extra.
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Passengers will fly on 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 jet aircraft. Smaller than the planes used in Baton Rouge by major commercial carriers, the ERJs have only two seats per side, so no one gets relegated to a middle seat, Bowman said.
Members of the mayor-president’s staff and the airport commission said city-parish leaders have been aggressively looking for expanded low-cost flights and hope more companies will follow Via. Baton Rouge officials are pleased the new flights will link residents to the live music of Austin and the theme parks of Orlando.
“I’m ready for my Mickey Mouse ears,” Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks.
Paul Arrigo hopes the feeling will be reciprocal. More connectivity may also bring tourists and conventions from other states into Baton Rouge, the CEO of Visit Baton Rouge said.
“Texas is a huge market for Baton Rouge, both for corporate and for leisure travel,” Arrigo said.
Baton Rouge Area Chamber President Adam Knapp pointed to a sign bearing the airport’s new slogan: “It’s about time.” He agreed, saying it’s time to implement new routes to support the Capital City’s growing business community and urged locals to fly through their hometown airport.
Via was founded in 1997 but functioned mostly as a charter company for the first 20 years of its existence. It got its commercial carrier license two years ago, and most of its routes began in the past six months, Bowman said. The airline has only 10 aircraft, half of which are ERJs; the others include propeller planes and a pair of small four-seaters. Bowman said the company hopes to add another five ERJs soon as it expands service.
Baton Rouge will bridge Orlando and Austin, the airline’s hubs. Austin also serves Tucson, Arizona; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Branson, Missouri; and Little Rock, Arkansas. Orlando connects to Jackson, Mississippi, Mobile and Montgomery, Alabama; and Charlotte, North Carolina.
Airport officials asked locals to reward Via’s investment in Baton Rouge. Passengers traveling to Texas or Florida should give the fledgling airline a look, even if their schedule only allows them to fly Via one-way, said Jim Caldwell, the airport’s director of marketing and air service development.
“We’ve got to support it,” he said.
Caldwell talked up service to Orlando in particular. Via flies into Sanford International Airport, rather than the larger Orlando International Airport. Sanford is maybe 20 minutes farther from the city’s attractions, but it’s much smaller and easier to navigate than the packed, hectic Orlando International, he said.