Personal trainer Lois Newberry's four-day visit to Miami for a fitness competition got off on the right foot.
The South Windermere resident felt she scored a great deal on the airfare, paying $215 for the round-trip ticket within a week of her departure.
Also, she was treated to free snacks and beverages near the check-in area Thursday morning, as officials celebrated new nonstop service between Charleston International Airport to the sun-splashed Sunshine State metropolis on American Eagle Airlines.
"You can't beat it. It's an hour-and-a-half straight shot," Newberry said shortly before boarding the inaugural midday flight. "I'd go to South Beach anytime."
Starting in the spring, she and other Miami-bound travelers will have not one but two nonstop options, as American Eagle said Thursday that it is doubling its bet on Charleston by adding a second daily trip.
American Eagle, a feeder for AMR Corp.-owned American Airlines, is using 50-seat jets on the route, which offers connections to 14 cities in Florida,the Caribbean, the Bahamas and Latin America.
The announcement of the additional service takes some of the sting out of AirTran's recent decision to pull out of Charleston next month.
David Jennings, chairman of the board that operates Charleston International, said the Miami route will be a time-saver for southbound travelers who until now had to fly either "laterally" or northwest to make connections in Atlanta or Charlotte.
The second American Eagle flight will start April 6, giving passengers the flexibility of leaving in the early morning or late afternoon, said Brett Hooyerink, communications and advertising manager.
Francisco Porras, the airline's sales manager for the mid-Atlantic region, said the twice daily service will be offered year-round, not seasonally.
"It's going be more conducive for business travelers in terms of one-day trips or two full-day trips," Porras said.
American Eagle said the Charleston expansion is part of a broader effort to grow its business at Miami International Airport, which is a hub for American Airlines.
The inaugural flight Thursday fell on the 25th anniversary of the smaller carrier's first flight to Fayetteville, Ark., from Dallas, Porras said.
American Eagle also offers four daily trips between Charleston and American Airlines' primary hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Reach John McDermott at 937-5572 or email@example.com.