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Delta Air Lines adds non-stop flights from LaGuardia to SRQ

MANATEE -- Delta Airlines today announced it has added service from New York's LaGuardia to the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

The nonstop daily flight will use an MD-88 plane to depart from LGA at 8:45 a.m. and arrive in SRQ at noon, then return at 12:45 p.m. and arrive back in New York at 3:45 p.m. The flight is slated to commence Dec. 15.

Delta is the airport's largest carrier, bringing 563,829 passengers through the SRQ terminal last year, about 43 percent of the airport's 2011 total. The carrier's only current route is Atlanta, with six daily departures from SRQ.

Delta's airport landing fees, equaling about $100 a plane, will be waived as incentive for the expansion.

Earlier this year JetBlue also announced it would be starting LaGuardia service June 11.

"New York is our biggest market, and the Delta flight is not going commence until the busy December season, so I don't anticipate any problems there," Airport President and CEO Rick Piccolo said. "We have plenty of capacity from New York we could add."

The existing carries now serving SRQ include Delta, JetBlue, U.S. Airways and Air Canada. United will join the roster this fall with non-stop service to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Delta becomes the third airline to expand or add new service since AirTran announced in January it would be pulling out of SRQ by Aug. 12, stripping about 360,000 passengers from the airport.

"This adds more seats," Piccolo said. "But we're not done. We will continue our effort to look for more."

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@JoshSalman