United Airlines open for business in Presque Isle

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PRESQUE ISLE, Maine (WAGM) - The first flight out of Presque Isle received a water salute before takeoff.
Airport staff, community members and dignities gathered to celebrate the inaugural flight.

"It's the first jet service in almost 40 years, first jet service in an unregulated airline environment, that's just tremendous."

The 50 passenger jet will fly from Presque Isle to Newark Liberty International Airport, in Newark New Jersey.

"The thing that really convinced United in the end that this market would work is just the pent up demand for service. The previous service didn't have good connectivity, it was hard to get around the country using it."

Jack Penning is an aviation consultant. He was part of the team that worked to get United Airlines to put a bid in to operate from Northern Maine. Earlier this year US DOT awarded the contract for Presque Isle to United. With a new airline taking over, it was decided to rebrand the airport as well.

"With this new service providing international connections we thought it made sense to put international in the name so it was a lot of research that backed us up and then with this new service adding Presque Isle international airport we think makes the most sense."

For the past month no air service has been in or out of the airport. Pen Air that had been operating for the past 6 years was contracted to remain in place until the end of June. However, due to lack of staff they pulled service early.

"It was a very quiet month, the terminal most of the time the main doors were locked, the lights were dimmed, it had a really strange feeling about it."

Now that United is in place, the real work begins.

"If people don't use this service they could leave after 2 years so we want to make sure that they are here permanently and we also want to do what we can to get more flights, the more people that use this service, the more flights a day we'll have and then there's opportunities for service to other hubs, United has hubs in Washington DC, and Chicago, other cities where we can make even better connections to certain parts of the country."

United is operating 12 flights a week starting out. Pending on the amount of passengers that use the service, flight times will change to allow the most convenience for those traveling out of the county.