City News Blog


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Lakeland, Florida  – March 30th, 2011 – Direct Air, an air service with corporate headquarters located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina announced today it will begin providing non-stop jet service between four cities to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and the following markets beginning June 23rd, 2011: Niagara Falls-Buffalo, New York (serving greater Toronto, Canada); Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Hagerstown, Maryland; and Springfield, Illinois. 

As part of the opening celebration, Direct Air is offering passengers flying between these new markets a special introductory fare of “$79 for 79 Hours”.  This promotion begins with the press conference on Wednesday, March 30th and will end Saturday, April 2nd at midnight. Reservations can be booked at or by calling Direct Air’s Reservations Department at 1-877-432-3473.

Lakeland Airport Director Gene Conrad reported Direct Air will begin providing service with 10 flights per week. The schedule will offer Thursday and Sunday flights between Hagerstown and Lakeland and also flights between Myrtle Beach and Lakeland.  On Friday, Saturday, and Monday, nonstop flights will be offered between Lakeland and Niagara Falls NY /Toronto  and also between Lakeland and Springfield, Ill .

Conrad continued by saying, “What a tremendous opportunity this new partnership between Direct Air and the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport presents for Polk County and the City of Lakeland.  We have made tremendous strides to prepare our airport facility for an opportunity like this and Direct Air recognizes the potential of this airport  because of its central location in the heart of Florida.  We look forward to the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport serving as a gateway for visitors to our region and a convenient travel option for our local residents.”

Kay Ellison, Managing Partner of Direct Air said “We are incredibly excited to be basing an aircraft in Lakeland and expanding our presence in Central Florida.  We want to be known as the “go-to” air service for nonstop flights and low fares to Florida. We believe a long and very successful partnership with Lakeland Linder Regional Airport and the surrounding community will develop quickly as we work together to accomplish our common goals.”

Judy Tull, CEO of Direct Air said “Direct Air has built a strong niche service developing underserved markets offering convenient service via smaller, secondary airports as an alternative to high fares and lengthy travel times at big airports. The Lakeland Region is attractive to our business model and philosophy because of its strategic location situated between Orlando in Central Florida, and Tampa / St. Petersburg on Florida’s west coast. Our passengers will find it as an economical alternative to the busy and stressful larger airports in Orlando and Tampa."

Direct Air President Ed Warneck commented by saying, “The partners of Direct Air all agree that we will be a vital component in expanding and growing the Orlando West region of Central Florida.  Direct Air projects a $33,462,000.00 annual economic impact based on a conservative 75% per cent load factor will flow into the Central Florida / Lakeland region from the 1,200 inbound seats per week, totaling 62,400 inbound passenger seats per year. It is Direct Air’s goal to grow the market through increased frequency and adding new destinations as we have done in our other markets.”

Direct Air has been offering non-stop and direct jet flight service since 2007.   The company is pleased to add Lakeland, FL, and Hagerstown, MD to its current markets:  Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Pittsburgh, Pa. ; Newark, N.J.; Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Columbus, Oh.; Plattsburgh, N.Y.; Toledo, Oh.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Worcester, Mass.; Allentown, Pa.; Rockford, Ill.; Springfield, Ill.; Melbourne, Fla.; Orlando-Sanford, Fla.; Punta Gorda, Fla., and West Palm Beach, Fla.  All Direct Air flights are public charters operated on Boeing 737-400, 150 passenger jet aircraft by Sky King Airlines featuring 12 First Class and 138 coach leather seating.  Direct Air is excited to be flying its one-millionth passenger in 2011.

Airfares are one way beginning at $99 each way and increase in increments based on availability. First Class seats are available for a $100 upgrade each way. Seat assignments in advance require a $10 purchase per person. There is an additional charge for baggage and surcharges may apply for excess/overweight checked baggage.  A convenience fee of $15 each way will be accessed. Air fares do not include Federal Segment Fee of $3.50 per segment (A segment is defined as one take off and one landing), Passenger Facility Charges (PFC) up to $4.50 and September 11th Security Fee of $3.70 per departure.

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Direct Air Media Relations

Kelsey Dunn
(843) 916-9700


A grand opening ceremony was held on Tuesday, March 29, 2011 for the new Central Florida Aerospace Academy (CFAA) facility located at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport on the Sun ‘n Fun campus.

CFAA is Kathleen High School’s aviation-oriented career academy. In the academy, students are challenged to reach high levels of achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in preparation for high-tech careers in the fields of aviation and aerospace.

The new 58,000-suare-foot CFAA was funded by a $7.5 million grant from the Aviation Education Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by renowned pilot James Ray.

The grand opening coincided with the kick-off of Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In 2011 at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport.

Watch the Press Conference 

The Florida Department of Transportation has launched plans for widening US 98 in South Lakeland, increasing this 4-lane road to a 6-lane highway.  Due to the CSX railroad right-of-way on the east side, the only area for lanes to be added is on the west side, where two additional lanes are planned.  The reconstruction of US 98 in this area will conflict with our existing water main along the east side of US 98.  The pipe relocation project includes digging a trench, installation of a twelve inch water main, and construction of a new compacted road base which is designed to then support the new driving surfaces.

City Water Distribution crews are working on an accelerated schedule to relocate the water main. The relocated main is being aligned so as to not conflict with the later road work, storm sewers, drainage structures and other road improvement activities.   The new water main will be of materials better suited to be under road surfaces and will be buried at greater depths thereby preventing main failures due to the later road widening construction.  Due to the very narrow construction corridor our water main must be installed first as it is the deepest utility and must be placed prior to other utilities (cables, etc.).

Transitioning from old to new water mains should have no appreciable impact on our water customers, or adjoining business owners.  The new water main must be tested, disinfected and cleared for use by the Department of Health, before being put in service.  Once the new main is in service, we will then disconnect the old water main and properly abandon the line.

This project is expected to cost less than $300,000 dollars and is being performed by our own city crews giving us direct control of schedules, priority and work quality.  When working with active mains and customer services, we prefer to handle these projects internally to ensure uninterrupted customer services, prompt restoration of disturbed areas and to fully control the order of the work. 

According to project foreman, John Sanders, “To meet the demands of the schedule, for the project, a larger than normal crew is being utilized. The crew consists of two temporary workers, four pipefitters, one crew leader and two foremen.” The process consists of a backhoe digging a trench, pipefitters lowering the pipe in place, making the mechanical joint connections, running tracer wire, a front-end loader filling back in the dirt and a crew tamping down each of three one foot tall layers.  The crew’s daily installation schedule is averaging 120 feet of pipe, in 18 foot lengths. The pipe relocation project is expected to be complete by May 6th 2011.

The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) just awarded The Lakeland Center as host site of the state wrestling tournmanet for the next three years. Upon reviewing proposals submitted by several venues, The Lakeland Center was granted the contract after receiving the highest scores based on quality of the facility, experience, volunteer staff, financial considerations and other proposal criteria.

Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields had this to offer in congratulations to The Lakeland Center and their partner Polk County Sports Marketing, “The City of Lakeland is proud to once again serve as the host venue for this prestigious state sporting tournament. We thank the FHSAA for providing our fine city with the remarkable opportunity to accommodate the FHSAA’s athletes, their families and fans for another exciting three years of tournaments. Our appreciation also extends to the talented staff of Polk County Sports Marketing, under the vision and direction of Executive Director Mark Jackson, for their ongoing financial support and assistance in the preparations of our  winning bid documents. We look forward to another three years of state wrestling tournaments and the support of our valued Championship Committee sponsors.”

The Lakeland Center has hosted FHSAA events for more than three decades providing a superior venue for these prestigious state level tournaments. Contestants travel from all points of Florida’s peninsula to compete in the championship tournament and stay in the region for several days providing millions of dollars in economic impact. Teams are encouraged to bring not only contestants but family and friends to enjoy our area’s accommodations, dining and shopping attractions.

The Championship Committee comprised of over 30 local leaders is responsible for tournament operations and are instrumental in assisting with sponsorship funding. The tournaments are generously supported by platinum sponsors Central Florida’s Polk County Sports Marketing, Publix Supermarkets and The Ledger Media Group. In addition to the platinum Championship Committee Sponsors, more than 20 other proud local businesses provide vital financial support through their gold, silver and bronze sponsorships.  

The Lakeland Center offers a full variety of sporting events, concerts and shows. Located minutes between Orlando and Tampa in Lakeland, Florida off I-4 on Lime Street, The Lakeland Center is a short drive from anywhere in Central Florida. Regular box office hours are Monday-Friday 9:30am-5:30pm and two hours prior to most events. For ticket information, call the Box Office at (863)834-8111 or  to charge by phone 800-745-3000. Additional information is available at our website at