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Eppley will offer daily service to Toronto, its first international flight, starting this spring
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Eppley will offer daily service to Toronto, its first international flight, starting this spring

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Eppley Airfield will begin offering its first-ever international flight this spring.

The daily nonstop flight to Toronto will be operated by Air Canada, the first foreign airline to offer regular service to and from Eppley, starting May 1.

The flight will leave Toronto at 2:30 p.m. and land in Omaha at 4 p.m. The return flight will leave Omaha at 4:30 p.m. and land in Toronto at 7:50 p.m. Air Canada will fly the route with a 50-seat, single-class CRJ-200 jet.

“The new flight will offer opportunities for Omaha business and leisure travelers not only to Toronto and other destinations in Canada, but also throughout Air Canada’s extensive and growing global network,” said Steve McCoy, manager of airline affairs at Eppley.

“The schedule of service is very conducive to making European connections,” he said.

Air Canada has been expanding its slate of flights to Europe and Asia over the past decade, according to an August report in the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. dollar’s strength — $1 is worth about 25 percent more in Canada — allows the airline to offer competitively priced fares in the United States.

The airline added 16 international and U.S. transborder routes in the second quarter, and traffic increased about 14 percent over the previous year.

Even though it will welcome its first international flight, Eppley Airfield’s name won’t change — there aren’t any plans to change the airport’s name to “Eppley International” at this point, McCoy said.

The airport already was technically an international airport — designated as a so-called landing rights airport and an international port of entry, McCoy said. The airport already has U.S. customs facilities.

“The name to us right now, I would say, is not the most important thing,” McCoy said of Eppley. “It’s important we’re providing quality air service to the community.”

(Des Moines, Tulsa and some other cities, for instance, call their airports “international” even though they have no regularly scheduled international flights.)

Still, even though it has them, Eppley’s U.S. customs facilities won’t be needed, McCoy said. Major Canadian airports such as those in Toronto and Montreal offer what is called U.S. Customs and Border Protection Preclearance, where travelers go through U.S. customs screening before boarding their flights. Once they land in the United States, there’s no need for any further screening.

“We look forward to welcoming onboard customers traveling to the Toronto area for both business and leisure on our daily year-round flights,” said Benjamin Smith, president of passenger airlines at Air Canada. “We’re also excited to introduce local area customers connecting onward at our Toronto international hub to our extensive global network to Asia, Europe and across Canada.”

Eppley has added several nonstop flights to new destinations over the past two years to cities including Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; Miami; and San Francisco. More new flights are expected to launch next year, including Frontier Airlines and American Airlines’ flights to Philadelphia this spring. Frontier also will add nonstop flights to Las Vegas and San Francisco in April.

In 2016, Eppley was the ninth-fastest-growing airport in the U.S. when it came to available airline seats for purchase, growth fueled primarily by airlines flying larger planes.

Airlines added about 446,000 seats in Omaha last year, or a 9 percent increase when compared with 2015.

paige.yowell@owh.com, 402-444-1414

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