Delta Airlines loves Queens, and it showed Friday as the airline formally announced plans for the largest expansion of service of any kind at LaGuardia Airport in more than 40 years.
Beginning in 2012, Delta will add more than 100 new flights per day out of LaGuardia to 29 new destinations throughout the country. The move, following a swap with US Airways that will shrink Delta’s profile in Washington, DC, will mean 264 flights a day to more than 60 cities in the U.S.
“Delta’s new service will offer customers more flights and seats and travel choices than any other carrier in New York, one of the largest and most competitive aviation markets in the world,” Delta CEO Richard Anderson said at a press conference Friday morning at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City.
The airline will offer a total of more than 400 flights out of the region including flights from John F. Kennedy Airport in Jamaica and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
The airline intends to make LaGuardia its hub for domestic and business travelers. It will add direct jet service to smaller cities such as Buffalo, Syracuse, Wilmington, NC, and Burlington, Vt.
It also will add flights to Cleveland, Miami, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Charlotte, NC, and Denver, giving Delta service to most of the top 50 business destinations in the country.
The Delta Shuttle, which last year added Chicago flights to its regular Boston and Washington, DC, service, still will fly out of LaGuardia’s Marine Air Terminal.
At the press conference, in which the Chronicle participated by telephone, Anderson and Delta Senior Vice President Gale Grimmett said they intend to spend more than $100 million on construction at LaGuardia.
The airline is planning a 600-foot connector that will link the current Delta terminal, Terminal D, with the current US Airways terminal, Terminal C. Both terminals will be renovated and modernized to give the airline 26 gates.
They said phasing in larger planes will allow space for 4 million new seats per year out of LaGuardia with the same number of takeoffs and landings.
Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Delta’s prediction that the expansion will create hundreds of new jobs at LaGuardia and thousands more indirectly in the transportation, hospitality and food service industries.
“More slots equals more flights and more tourists coming through our airport,” Friedman said. “Delta has been a great corporate partner in our community, involved with many of our borough’s not-for-profits, as volunteers and financially. This deal is long in the making and the chamber is thrilled that it has been consumated.”
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall also hailed the news.
“It is a good sign for the local economy and the aviation industry that one of our major airlines has an increased presence in New York and is now expanding its operations at LaGuardia,” she said in a statement issued Tuesday. “We applaud Delta’s efforts to increase their presence in New York City and thereby contribute to our borough’s job growth and economic well-being.”
Marshall said she met with Delta officials earlier this year to discuss their plans for massive expansion at JFK Airport, where the airline is spending more than $1.2 billion over the next few years to make Kennedy its hub for international flights.