Along with tourism, local officials hope new D.C. flights bring resources to the Panhandle


PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport officials celebrated on Tuesday morning as a new nonstop flight made its debut.

American Airlines flight 5285 arrived nonstop to ECP from our nation’s capital for the first time, underneath a water cannon salute.

“It’s really a great day for us,” said the airport’s Executive Director, Parker McClellan. “We’ve been working on D.C. service for probably five or six years.”

McClellan said while it gives visitors a new way to travel to the area, the route also serves a bigger purpose; connecting national resources to the Panhandle.

“You saw five or six military personnel as well as some DOD contractors and lobbyists got off the airplane,” he said. “That’s really important.”

One of those arrivals is Cathleen Ferguson, a Senior Advisor for The Roosevelt Group, a consulting organization that’s helping Tyndall Air Force Base rebuild.

“I come down here very often,” said Ferguson. “It’ll make it a whole lot easier for folks in D.C., the folks who control the resources and the policy to get up in the morning, fly down here, spend the day here, and get right back to Washington D.C..”

Congressman Neal Dunn was on the route’s first return flight to D.C. on Tuesday morning.

He said he’s very grateful for the flight and that it’s long overdue.

“It’s a busy time in Washington, I guess we all know there’s a lot going on,” said Dunn. “We’re going to be up there working our tails off for the next few months I suspect.”

Aside from lawmaking, he said it’s another way to bring visitors to the area, which is always welcomed.

“The more people we bring down here and show what a beautiful town we have, what a beautiful place it is to be in the Panhandle, the better off we are,” he said.

This is American Airlines’ fourth nonstop flight they’ve brought to ECP since joining the airport’s fleet last year.

“This is great day for us at American Airlines and our nonstop service between Panama City Beach and our nation’s capital,” said Radney Robertson, Managing Director for American at DCA. “We look forward to connecting Floridians to the over 250 daily flights we operate from DCA .” 

The flight will be operated by a 50 seat CRJ-200.

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