TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. – The first United Airlines flight from Washington, D.C., touched down at the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport on Thursday. The new route includes two daily trips between Ithaca and the mid-Atlantic hub.

Business leaders and elected officials gathered at the departure terminal Thursday afternoon to welcome the arriving passengers, who were greeted like celebrities, walking down the moveable staircase to applause and flashing cameras.

Jennifer Tavares, who heads the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce, told the crowd that the new service emerged from the vision and collaboration of many stakeholders. She said that in particular, “This piece of transportation infrastructure is so important to our business community and our higher-ed community.”

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Multiple speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremony applauded Airport Director Mike Hall’s efforts to expand the airport’s service. Some also noted how the growth of the airport fits within Tompkins’ innovative legacy.

Gerald Hector, Cornell University’s vice president for financial affairs and university treasurer, pointed out that Cornell had a thriving aeronautics club before the Wright brothers launched their first successful flight.

Tompkins County Legislature Chair Martha Robertson said the new service is a wonderful addition to our global community. “It’s not just to D.C.,” she said, “it’s to the rest of the world.”

The arriving flight from Dulles landed on time despite rainy weather. The drizzle did not dampen the spirits of airport employees and community members who watched it taxi down the runway.

As the crowd walked back into the terminal, an announcement aired over the speakers: United Airlines was seeking a volunteer to give up their seat on the outbound flight to Dulles, which was overbooked.

The route is fully booked through the end of the week and seats are going fast on future flights, according to United’s public relations manager Robert Einhorn.

Jill Kaplan, president of United’s New Jersey and New York operations, said the company welcomes Ithaca into its network of hubs.

“This is a terrifically vibrant community,” Kaplan said, adding that Dulles will serve “as a gateway to destinations that are important to our customers.” She welcomes local leaders’ spirit of innovation and said she looks forward to partnering on ways to further enhance service going forward.

Featured Image: First flight from Dulles lands at Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport (Devon Magliozzi/The Ithaca Voice)

Devon Magliozzi

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at dmagliozzi@ithacavoice.com or 607-391-0328.