Snowbirds might get a cheap flight home next year on Southwest Airlines.
The airline has added a nonstop flight between Albany and Fort Myers, Fla., an airport that is close to popular winter rental homes in Bonita Springs, Cape Coral, Marco Island, Naples and Punta Gorda.
It’s also near vacation destinations and the airline hopes many customers will choose to visit if they can get a cheap, nonstop flight. The flights will take about three hours.
“We are optimistic that the initial nonstop flight will stimulate traveler demand for Albany-Fort Myers service and result in the expansion of service to Southwest Florida,” said the Rev. Kenneth Doyle, acting chairman of the Albany County Airport Authority.
Flights will begin Mar. 8 and be offered only on Saturdays at first.
March might be a little early for snowbirds, who tend to get three-month rentals over the winter. But airport spokesman Doug Myers said Southwest would be willing to run under-filled planes for awhile.
“They tend to grow their market and they give it substantial time to grow,” he said.
The flights might eventually bring many more customers to Albany on Saturdays, but Myers said there’s plenty of room for them.
“We can handle it,” he said. “The airport is designed to handle 2 million passengers per year, and we have 1.25 million now.”
The Fort Myers flight will leave the airport at 10:50 a.m. and arrive in Florida at 2:10 p.m. The return flight will leave Fort Myers at 2:30 p.m. and arrive in Albany at 5:30 p.m.
Southwest began selling tickets today. The lowest price was $169 each way.
Southwest came to Albany in 2000, and now boards 42 percent of the passengers who come to the airport. It also offers nonstop service from Albany to Baltimore, Chicago, Las Vegas, and two other Florida locations: Orlando and Tampa.