DALLAS -- American Airlines passengers, a few wearing cowboy boots and several with West Virginia roots, filled the first direct flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Yeager Airport Wednesday afternoon.
The airline announced in March that it would offer nonstop jet service between the Charleston airport and Dallas.
Lewisburg resident Sharon Meador said the new nonstop flight -- which was about 2 hours and 15 minutes long on Wednesday -- will let her spend more time with her family in Arkansas and less time traveling.
Meador sat near the back of the 50-seat Bombardier CRJ-200 on Flight 2518, which left Dallas at 1:05 p.m. She didn't even know about the nonstop flight to Charleston until she arrived at the Texas airport.
She's been traveling to Arkansas for 10 years to visit her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, and said the direct flight to Dallas/Fort Worth is ideal.
"This will be great because the flight from northwest Arkansas to Dallas is a lot shorter and it cuts my traveling time down," Meador said. "It will be really nice because I will get to spend more time with my family."
American Airlines' daily flight from Dallas to Charleston will leave at 1:05 p.m. and arrive in Charleston at 4:30 p.m. The return flight will leave Yeager Airport at 5 p.m. and arrive in Dallas at 6:30 p.m.
The flights are provided by American Eagle, a subsidiary of American Airlines.
The airline hosted four inaugural celebrations at the Dallas airport throughout Wednesday to launch the nonstop flights from its largest and primary hub to Zacatecas, Mexico; Hermosillo, Mexico; Aspen, Colo.; and Charleston.
Yeager Airport Director Rick Atkinson cut the red ribbon at the B25 concourse as American Airlines officials cheered and passengers snacked on cupcakes surrounded by red and blue balloons. Passengers who were American Airlines miles members got 500 bonus miles for flying to Charleston on Wednesday.
A crowd of about 50 people at Yeager welcomed the first flight as it landed in the state's capital a few minutes before its 4:30 p.m. scheduled arrival.
Two fire trucks, one on each side of the American airplane, arched water cannons toward the plane as it wheeled toward the gate.
Yeager officials greeted passengers inside the airport with Texas-style barbecue sandwiches and a large cake.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller said through his spokesman that he is "extremely pleased" that Yeager has added another travel destination for West Virginians.
He said the direct flight will be good for business.
"This new flight will also improve our local economy, as more businesses from the Southwest will now have an easy access to the capital city," Rockefeller said in his statement.
Dale Morris, regional vice president of governmental affairs for American Eagle in Dallas, said the nonstop flight will offer opportunities to both cities.
Dallas continues to be a major economic engine and Charleston can now benefit from that, and vice versa, Morris said.