Lights, Cameras And Finger Food As Bradley Celebrates Nonstop Flight To Europe
July 2, 2007
By ERIC GERSHON, Courant Staff Writer
You could tell this was no ordinary bon voyage.
First of all, the sign at Gate 5 said "AMSTERDAM."
Until Sunday, the only foreign cities regularly served nonstop from Bradley International Airport were in Canada.
Then there were the champagne flutes, the silver buffet trays overflowing with brandy snaps, the TV cameras and microphones - and the 9-foot woman on stilts with pigtails falling from beneath her Dutch bonnet.
"I hope that this is something that will put Hartford a little more on the map," said Paul Alfonso, who was waiting Sunday afternoon to board Bradley's first-ever daily trans-Atlantic flight, Northwest Flight 98.
Alfonso, a 32-year-old employee of The Hartford, booked passage on the flight a couple months ago with girlfriend Kristen Ralph, 23, after his mother and her husband decided to take a trip to Amsterdam.
It's strictly a pleasure trip for the couple.
"I have no interest in paying good money to go to Amsterdam for business meetings," Alfonso said.
Praised as an instrument of economic development for Greater Hartford and western Massachusetts - and as welcome relief for Connecticut travelers who normally trudge to Boston or New York to fly overseas - the Boeing 757 carried both business and leisure travelers.
Many of the first passengers in the waiting area appeared to be connected to the MetroHartford Alliance - Greater Hartford's chamber of commerce - which bought 60 seats on the flight.
But passengers interviewed before departing were going away for many reasons, including anniversaries and birthdays, as well as business. Most said they chose the flight because it was easier for them to take off from Bradley than from New York or Boston airports.
Amsterdam was to be the final destination for some, while others would catch connecting flights or trains to Paris, Belgium, Germany and India.
Hartford-area residents Richard and Betty, who asked that their last name not be used, were headed to Paris and Trier, Germany ("wine country"), to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They would have gone even if the Northwest flight hadn't been available, Richard said. But he was glad it hadn't come to that.
"It beats going to Kennedy or Logan," he said.
That's just what L. Scott Frantz, chairman of Bradley's board of directors, was thinking.
In remarks to reporters and other passengers before the flight departed, Frantz quipped that 400 years ago it took five months to get to Amsterdam from Hartford - "That's what it takes to get to Kennedy or Logan."
A water-cannon salute had been planned by Bradley but was canceled at the insistence of the Northwest pilots because, Frantz said, they reserve that honor for retiring pilots.
Northwest Flight 98 was scheduled to take off from Bradley at 5:25 p.m. and to arrive at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam at 6:25 a.m. local time today.
The first flight from Amsterdam to Hartford is scheduled to arrive at 3:10 p.m. today.
Passengers arriving at Bradley will clear customs at the International Arrivals Building, currently used for flights from Canada and for charter flights, mainly from the Caribbean.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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