NEWARK, N.J. -- Chicago-based United Airlines will soon offer non-stop flights to Atlantic City International Airport, a move that New Jersey officials hope will boost the falling fortunes of the seaside gambling resort.
United Chairman Jeff Smisek was joined Thursday by Gov. Chris Christie and New Jersey's Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney at Newark Liberty International Airport to announce the airline would begin non-stop daily service to Atlantic City from its hubs in Chicago and Houston -- the nation's third- and fourth-largest cities -- starting April 1.
"United's new Atlantic City service will drive business, tourism and economic development throughout the southern part of the state," Smisek said.
The additional service is one of Atlantic City's most pressing needs as its local market continues to decline under pressure from casinos in neighboring states.
Casino revenue in Atlantic City has fallen from $5.2 billion in 2006 to just over $3 billion last year.
Christie said the added service is part of a "renewed focus" his administration -- with support from Sweeney and others-- had been placing on trying to revive Atlantic City's sagging fortunes. He said they were "giving every opportunity for Atlantic City to continue to grow and prosper and for the citizens of South Jersey and the whole state to benefit from that future growth."
Christie made a brief appearance at the airport Thursday morning after canceling what would have been his first out-of-state speech since winning re-election last week. A Christie spokesman said the governor was fighting off a cold and had to cut back his schedule.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over operation of the Atlantic City International Airport in July, under a 15-year agreement with The South Jersey Transportation Authority.
The airport never turned a profit under SJTA control. It saw a 28 percent drop in passenger traffic during the first four months of 2013 compared to the previous year.
United announced Thursday that daily flights from Chicago would depart at 8:10 a.m. daily, arriving in Atlantic City at 11:17 a.m. Return flights will depart Atlantic City at 11:52 a.m. and arrive in Chicago at 1:10 p.m. From Houston, United's flight to Atlantic City will depart at 7 p.m. daily, arriving at 11:20 p.m. The return flight will depart Atlantic City at 6 a.m. and arrive in Houston at 8:49 a.m.
United Express carrier ExpressJet will operate the Atlantic City flights with 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft.