PLATTSBURGH Executives from the newest air service to provide non-stop jet service at Plattsburgh International Airport were welcomed with open arms and golf bag props as a way to celebrate the announcement of service to the sea-side golf Mecca of Myrtle Beach, S.C. Plattsburgh-North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry C. Douglas welcomed Myrtle Beach Direct Air and Tours president Ed Warneck and airline chief financial officer Robert Keilman at an airport press conference Jan. 10. Mr. Douglas noted the method of travel for the two gentleman and others flying in and out of Plattsburgh International will soon change, thanks to Myrtle Beach Direct Air. It took them two days to get here, Mr. Douglas said. Two days, two flights. Soon its going to be two hours. And soon it will be. Beginning Saturday, March 15, Myrtle Beach Direct Air will begin non-stop service to and from Myrtle Beach three days a week every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. Passengers will also have connecting flights available twice a week to and from St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sundays and Wednesdays. The airline will utilize twin engine Boeing 737-400 aircrafts offering 12 first-class and 138 economy-class leather seats. Fares are as low as $99 one way, said Mr. Warneck, with the availability of an upgrade from economy- to first-class for $50 more. There are no blackout periods, he added. Conversations with Myrtle Beach Direct Air have been ongoing for several months, said Mr. Douglas. Originally, a $625,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Transportations Small Community Air Service Development program was sought by Myrtle Beach International Airport to assist in underwriting the development of three new routes service to and from Niagara Falls International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Pittsburgh International Airport. The plan was to also expand its service to include Plattsburgh International, as well as Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Chicago Rockford International Airport this year. While Myrtle Beach International didnt receive the federal grant and Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago Rockford didnt make the airlines service schedule, Mr. Douglas was pleased to see Myrtle Beach Direct Air continued to pursue air service to Plattsburgh. We didnt get the grant, but, you know what? It didnt matter, said Mr. Douglas. We kept the conversation going. We decided we didnt need the grant. The market is there and were all very confident this service will be successful without the grant. Though letters of support from hundreds of people across the North Country and in neighboring Montreal didnt get Myrtle Beach International the grant, said Mr. Douglas, the letters did demonstrate to the Myrtle Beach airline executives a strong desire for service. Mr. Warneck stated it is his belief the new non-stop service will be well utilized by those traveling from and to Plattsburgh, which could mean additional flights offered in the future. I can assure you, the folks in the south, want to get up this way during the summer months, especially, said Mr. Warneck. Im sure you folks, in the snow and cold weather, will want to get down there. Its a marriage that can really work well. Without direct flights to Myrtle Beach currently being offered by neighboring airports Burlington International Airport in Vermont and Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Mr. Warneck said Plattsburgh International will corner the local market for such a service. Further, international travel fees charged at airports outside the United States traveling into the country, such as Trudeau International, make it hard for them to compete, he added. The estimated $150 in fees per flight put airports like Trudeau International at a disadvantage before even examining the cost of the flight itself, he said. Airports such as Plattsburgh International, which are not as heavily trafficked as major airports, are also favored by airlines like Myrtle Beach Direct Air for having less congestion, and in the case of Plattsburgh International, free parking. We try to look at airports that are remote, that are not main hubs, said Mr. Warneck. We think that people dont want to travel to the bigger airports, with the exception thats the only one they have ... They want to get on that vacation from the moment they step on the plane. So, we try to put the fun back in flying from the time that reservation is made until they return home. The addition of Myrtle Beach Direct Air service has further earned Plattsburgh International the nickname of Montreals fun and sun airport, said Mr. Douglas. The new service joins existing non-stop service offered at the airport by Allegiant Air to Fort Lauderale, Fla. Allegiant, which had its best start ever with its inaugural Plattsburgh service, recently announced non-stop service to Orlando will be offered beginning Feb. 1. If that werent enough, the inclusion of Myrtle Beach Direct Air service has further sparked interest from at least one airline that previously seemed to hold little interest in adding service to Plattsburgh International, said Mr. Douglas. All of a sudden, they called yesterday and they wanted to come up here and talk about what destinations they ought to serve and how soon they could start serving, said Mr. Douglas. Thats whats starting to happen. We always said if we developed a new airport here, wed redefine the aviation marketplace in northern New York and southern Quebec, said Mr. Douglas. Mr. Douglas went on to thank contributors to the Plattsburgh International Airport Take Off Fund, a $200,000 fund which facilitates prospective air service deals through underwriting incentives. Once again, that fund has played a key role in putting together the marketing plan and the launch of this upcoming new service and would not have been possible without the generosity of everybody who contributed to that fund, said Mr. Douglas. Reservations may be made on-line at www.myrtlebeachdirectair.com or by calling 1-877-432-3473. Information may also be accessed through Plattsburgh Internationals Web site, www.plattsburghinternationalairport.com .