TRAVERSE CITY — American Airlines will offer direct summer flights between Traverse City and Dallas-Fort Worth, seven days a week, June 2 through Aug. 21.
"We've really become that destination that people want to visit. We have a lot to offer," said Kevin Klein, director of Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City.
The new flights will carry the growing number of Texas golfers who want to swing their clubs in the relative cool of northern Michigan summers.
"Texas has been growing strong for us over the last 5 years," Klein said. "It's been a big market of influence" for Cherry Capital Airport.
The increase in air passenger traffic from Texas has been driven at least in part by a four-year-old marketing partnership between the airport, Traverse City Tourism, the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Gaylord Golf Mecca group. The organizations have pooled $305,000 in resources to advertise in the Dallas area to stir up interest in northern Michigan as a summer travel destination.
The airport also works with the Pure Michigan campaign to advertise in the Dallas region, said Klein.
Marketing efforts have worked. The number of summer daily passengers originating in Texas has grown from 35 or 40 on a typical summer day five years ago to 70 or 80 in 2016.
The new direct flights between Traverse City and Dallas-Fort Worth will use Embraer ERJ-175 aircraft that have both economy and first-class seating, and offer Wi-Fi, which Klein said is in demand by passengers.
The summer flights will depart Dallas-Fort Worth at 10:50 a.m. and arrive at Cherry Capital at 2:40 p.m. The return flight will leave Traverse City at 3:35 p.m. and land in Dallas-Fort Worth at 5:30 p.m.
Cherry Capital's year-round flight schedule features several daily flights to and from Detroit and Chicago, where flyers can connect to flights elsewhere.
But the summer months usher in much heavier traffic. Airlines have responded by offering summer-only flights between Traverse City and population centers farther afield.
Direct flights to and from Newark, New Jersey, are scheduled seven days a week again this summer. Weekend-only direct flights to and from Atlanta, Denver, Minneapolis and New York City also will return this summer, said Klein.
American committed to this summer's Dallas-Fort Worth flights only after Cherry Capital arranged a $750,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation's Small Community Air Service Development Program. Grant funds won't be tapped unless the airline loses money on the route, Klein said.
The Dallas-Fort Worth route will bring leisure travelers from Texas to Traverse City, Klein said, but also will function as a connection to draw additional passengers from across the south, southwest, Mexico and South America. He called the Texas airport a kind of "port city" that could be a valuable new hub connection for Traverse City.