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New Haven celebrates first direct flight to Puerto Rico

FILE: Daniel Camejo, vice president of Avelo Airlines, announced earlier this year the start of flights between New Haven and San Juan.
David Villafane

El Nuevo Día
FILE: Daniel Camejo, vice president of Avelo Airlines, announced earlier this year the start of flights between New Haven and San Juan.

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker got up early Wednesday morning and headed to Tweed-New Haven Airport.

But he wasn’t catching a flight; instead, he celebrated Avelo Airlines’ first direct flight from New Haven to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“Lots of people are going to take the opportunity to visit the island either to see family or potentially for the first time, to explore it and go on vacation,” Elicker said.

Elicker, state lawmakers and Avelo Airlines officials celebrated the flight with speeches and a send- off for the passengers on that flight.

The event comes months after the airline announced the new route. The nonstop flight is the first to travel out of New Haven to the Caribbean and outside the continental U.S.

Tourists are not the only ones who are excited about the new destination. Connecticut is home to one of the largest Puerto Rican populations outside of the island. And many of them still maintain connections with loved ones in the U.S. territory.

Elicker said New Haven residents clamored for the flights.

“I've been pushing them,” Elicker said. “And I know a lot of members in particular, the Puerto Rican community in New Haven has been pushing Avelo, “you got to fly to San Juan, you got to fly to San Juan.”

One way flights cost $99 and will fly out twice a week, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

But it also comes at a good time, business wise. According to the Bureau of Transportation, the holiday season, which begins around Thanksgiving, is among the busiest times for long distance travel during the year.

Avelo Airlines referenced the sheer numbers of Puerto Ricans statewide, many of whom travel frequently to the island. The first flight came the week before Thanksgiving and flights on the site are already climbing up in price.

The flights will come in time for the holidays, Avelo Airlines CEO Andrew Levy said.

“And with winter nearly here, this Caribbean Island treasure is the latest example of how Avelo is inspiring travel in new and exciting ways for Southern Connecticut,” Levy said.

Elicker said 300 jobs have been created since Avelo set up shop in New Haven and new routes, according to Gov. Ned Lamont mean more business.

“The addition of routes like this strengthens the region as a whole, improving our economic competitiveness and quality of life,” Lamont said.

But the flights aren’t just reconnecting family and friends. Elicker said the direct flights mean more people will visit New Haven, especially for upcoming events.

“There's a lot of people from Puerto Rico that are going to want to visit New Haven as well. And one of the draws will be the Puerto Rican festival, because they have topline artists that are from Puerto Rico and other places that people are going to want to see.”

Before the flights were announced, residents needed to head to Hartford or New York to board flights that went directly to the island. Hartford has the most Puerto Rican residents in the state, but Bridgeport and New Haven have large populations as well.

Avelo Airlines said 90,000 Puerto Ricans live in New Haven County. They make up the largest share of the Latino population in the state according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly 300,000 live in Connecticut.

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