The Mobile Airport Authority announced Wednesday new nonstop flights to Orlando from a new carrier and the possibility of opening Brookley Aeroplex to commercial flights in the future.
Via Airlines will begin service to Orlando from Mobile Regional Airport in May with $99 introductory, one-way fares. Via Vice President of Operations Matthew Macri said service would begin with one flight every Sunday, Monday, Thursday and Friday.
The new flights could depart from a new airport in the future, as MAA Executive Director Chris Curry also announced tentative plans to move at least some commercial flights to an airport at Brookley downtown.
Curry told reporters MAA expects to have a letter of intent mentioning a transition to Brookley later this year. He said a feasibility study on the move should be completed this summer. Although Curry stressed the proposed move wasn’t just about Via, Macri said the airline would be excited to be the first service out of the airport.
“We’re committed to the downtown airport largely due to my drive here this morning,” Macri said, mocking the often traffic-snarled Airport Boulevard. Macri called the city’s downtown vibrant.
Curry said the plan would be to keep both Brookley and Mobile Regional Airport open initially. MAA board member Pat Edington hinted that a plan to transition all airport operations to Brookley would be farther down the road.
“I love the idea of moving to Brookley,” Edington said. “We also have a good airport here. It will be a long time before we move completely.”
Curry said the hope would be that a passenger airport downtown could compete better with Pensacola International Airport. The 50-seat Embraer regional jets flown by Via will have a leg up on the turboprop service Pensacola offers to Orlando, Macri said.
“It’s one of the destinations we have needed,” Edington said. “It’s another new airline. I think it’s going to be a success.”
Brian Belcher, MAA director of marketing and air service development, said MAA wanted to add “another dot to the route.” Orlando is the first new city added since United added its Chicago flight in 2013 and Via is the first new airline added since 2002.
Flights to Mobile would depart Orlando at 11:42 a.m. The flights would last about two hours. The schedule wouldn’t just accommodate Mobilians, but would work well for visitors from Central Florida to the Port City, Macri said.
“There are people in Central Florida who want to come to Alabama to play golf,” Macri said. “As someone who swings the sticks myself, as always, golf bags fly free on Via Airlines.”