Local airline to offer flights to 3 Florida cities

Silver Airways will launch service in March between Charleston International and Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Traveling to Tampa, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale is going to get quicker for Charleston area residents.

A small regional air carrier allied with United Airlines and JetBlue Airways will launch the only daily nonstop service between Charleston International Airport and two of the three Florida cities on March 19, airport and airline officials announced Tuesday.

Fort Lauderdale-based Silver Airways will offer three daily flights out of Charleston on its 34-seat Saab 340Bplus, a turboprop aircraft. One flight will leave for Tampa and continue on to Fort Lauderdale, while the other will depart for Orlando twice a day before continuing on to Fort Lauderdale.

Introductory one-way fares will start at $89 for flights between March 19 and May 22.

The airline serves 25 destinations in Florida, the Bahamas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., with about 130 flights a day.

Owned by Victory Park Capital, the Chicago-based investment firm launched the airline in 2011.

“We continue to have a lot of requests in Charleston for a lot of Florida destinations,” said Paul Campbell, director of Charleston County Aviation Authority. “Now travelers can reach Tampa and Orlando, with their attractions, and continue on to Fort Lauderdale, where they can fly to other destinations. It’s going to be great for economic development here. That’s a plus for this part of the community.”

A Silver Airways representative called serving the Charleston market “a good match” for the airline.

“We’ve had lots of interest from the business community and leisure travelers,” spokeswoman Misty Pinson said. “We are looking to expand our point-to-point service from Florida.”

She added, “We are giving Floridians the opportunity to see all the great things that Charleston has to offer. This is a great win-win for all of us.”

The deal happened very quickly, according to Helen Hill, director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Talks began about 18 months ago, and she didn’t expect service to begin until 2016. In November, the airline dropped service to Atlanta.

“That freed up availability,” Hill said. “We were asked to jump on that opportunity.”

The local hospitality industry looks forward to working with visitors from Florida who take advantage of the new air service, said Dan Blumenstock, chairman of the CVB.

“Florida consistently ranks among the top-tier states in terms of visitor inquiries, and these two important regions offered by Silver Airways consistently lead Florida in that category,” Blumenstock said. “We believe our industry will strongly benefit from the new service.”

The carrier’s ticket counter will be set up between those of United Airlines and JetBlue Airways at Charleston International.

The new airline is the second in a month to add service in Charleston.

Canada’s Porter Airlines, which already partners with JetBlue on flights at Charleston International Airport, announced in December it will add seasonal, nonstop service between the Lowcountry and Toronto to capture a piece of the area’s spring tourism market.

The Porter flights start Feb. 14 and run until May 2, flying once a week on Saturdays to and from Toronto.

Charleston International, the state’s largest airport, continues to see record-setting passenger numbers. Through November the airport saw more than 2.88 million passengers arriving and departing. For all of 2013, the airport had 2.9 million passengers.

“We expect to surpass the numbers for 2013,” airport spokeswoman Charlene Gunnells said.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.