Allegiant Air on Friday began a new chapter of commercial service between Hagerstown Regional Airport and Orlando, Fla.
Opening-day participation was strong, with the first flight from Orlando to Hagerstown about 85 percent full, which airport Director Phil Ridenour called unusually good.
Then, the first flight leaving Hagerstown was even more crowded. Shortly before it left, Ridenour said 145 of the 150 seats had been sold.
Allegiant flew from Hagerstown to Orlando-Sanford International Airport from November 2008 through July 2010, ending service because of a “lack of market demand,” The Herald-Mail reported at the time.
Washington County officials were surprised by the decision, saying Allegiant’s flights were, on average, more than 90 percent full.
Direct Air followed Allegiant Air, offering service to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Lakeland, Fla., but left Hagerstown in August 2011.
In March 2012, Allegiant announced it would return to Hagerstown.
Ridenour said during a brief celebration ceremony on Friday that plenty of work went into getting Allegiant to come back.
He and Washington County Commissioner John F. Barr said the service will stay if local residents support it.
Thomas B. Riford, the president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, encouraged passengers as they worked their way through a security line.
“Come back to Hagerstown and bring some people with you,” Riford told them.
After speaking, Barr changed into more casual clothes and prepared to board, having purchased a ticket.
Paul Crampton Jr., the mayor of Funkstown, also was getting on board.
County Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham was flying with her husband, Art. They planned to stay in Florida for the weekend.
Several passengers noticed people they knew who would be on their flight, prompting Ruth Anne Callaham to say it was shaping up as a “Cheers” flight, on which everyone knew your name.
Radio station 106.9 FM The Eagle held a “pack your bags” contest in which the winners would get on a flight a few hours later and stay in Florida for the weekend. Hotel lodging was included.
Contestants were encouraged to dress as “tacky tourists” to increase their odds of winning the random drawing.
The first winning number belonged to Keith Robinson of Hagerstown.
However, Robinson and his group already had purchased their tickets for that flight online, and also had lined up their accommodations. Changing the plans would have been a hassle, so Robinson let the radio station pick another winner.
The second — and final — winners were Doug and Jessica Shatzer of Chambersburg, Pa. They and their son, Tyson, and Tyson’s girlfriend, Alexandra Crotty, retrieved their bags from the car. They were ready to go.
Jessica Shatzer was excited, but said she felt bad Robinson couldn’t accept the prize.
“We’re just glad that Allegiant’s flying out of Hagerstown again,” Doug Shatzer said.
Tyson Shatzer said Hagerstown Regional Airport is more relaxing than the metro airports.
“It’s not so big; you don’t get lost,” he said.
Robinson was part of a group of five couples traveling together.
Former county Commissioner Doris J. Nipps was with the group, along with Carolyn Motz, who preceded Ridenour as airport director.