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Allegiant Air takes off for Orlando

November 15, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - An exotic bird, grandparents flying to see their grandchildren's football tournament and the president of the Washington County Commissioners were among the passengers Friday night on the inaugural Allegiant Air flight from Hagerstown Regional Airport to Orlando, Fla.

"My wife is taking me to Florida on her credit card," Commissioners President John F. Barr said Friday night during a brief ceremony before the flight.

Papa, a roseate spoonbill, made the flight from Orlando, where he resides at Sea World, to Hagerstown for Friday's event.

"We wanted to bring a bit of the sun with us," said Alex Gonzalez while Papa perched on his arm and tried to peck at a reporter's notebook.

Sea World and Allegiant Air are working together to promote Orlando as a vacation destination, the companies' public relations representatives said.

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Papa was the first roseate spoonbill to visit Washington County and was proclaimed an honorary citizen, said Thomas B. Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Allegiant Air offers nonstop service, on a jet that seats 150 people, from Hagerstown to Florida on Mondays and Fridays, said Sabrina LoPiccolo, Allegiant's public relations manager.

Barr planned to spend the weekend in Orlando with his wife, and was looking forward to "Florida orange juice and sunshine," he said.

"As president of the commission, it's very important to support Allegiant Air and the community and get behind this," Barr said.

George Karos, mayor of Martinsburg, W.Va., has a vacation place in Sebring, Fla. Karos and his wife, Renee, usually fly out of Washington Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia for their vacations. The couple was leaving Friday from Hagerstown, having saved about two hours making the switch from Dulles, Renee Karos said.

"We need to support it," she said. "This is what this airport needs."

Airport officials echoed Renee Karos.

"Please tell everyone you know to fill these seats," Airport Manager Carolyn Motz told the crowd. If the Orlando flights are popular, more services will come to Hagerstown, she said.

Allegiant Air also brought about 12 jobs to the Hagerstown area, mostly in operational support to the airline, Motz said.

Airport officials already are seeing a response from the Orlando area, with residents there booking flights to Hagerstown, she said.

Waynesboro, Pa., residents Ella Kauffman and her husband, Jose Mendez, were heading to Orlando to see their grandchildren's football tournament, she said. They usually travel to Florida from Baltimore-Washington International Airport about three times a year, and flying out of Hagerstown saves them almost an entire day because they can work and still get to the airport in time for their flight, Kauffman said.

"A whole day it saves us," she said.

The Allegiant Air flight took off Friday about 8 p.m. and was scheduled to arrive in Orlando just after 10 p.m.

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