By Michael Aron
Chief Political Correspondent
At Newark Airport this morning, the skies got a little more friendly for Atlantic City.
United Airlines CEO Jeff Smeisik announced new direct flights from Chicago and Houston into Atlantic City International Airport.
“So I’m proud to be here today to announce new daily non-stop service beginning April 1 next year from our powerhouse hubs in Chicago and Houston to Atlantic City,” said Smeisik.
They held it in Newark to maximize media attention.
Gov. Chris Christie, a media draw himself, said his Administration and the Legislature have gone to great efforts to pump new life into the casino town.
“In the end it’s up to the businesses and people of Atlantic City and South Jersey as to the success or failure or our venture, but I don’t think anyone can say any longer as had been said for many years with some justification that folks in the state capital and north of there did not understand or care about the needs of South Jersey and Atlantic City,” said Christie.
Christie was scheduled to give a speech at 8 am in Philadelphia this morning but cancelled it because he’s fighting a cold. The only reason he didn’t cancel this announcement as well, said a spokeswoman, is that the CEO of United flew up from Houston to be here.
Senate President Steve Sweeney, a South Jersey resident and booster, also changed his schedule to be here, Christie said.
“Atlantic City for many years was the golden goose for the state of New Jersey. Everyone benefitted from it. Well, the goose got sick. And we needed it to get it healthy again. And when the governor and I started working on the casino district legislation, one thing we recognized is we needed to unlock the nation to come into Atlantic City,” said Sweeney.
“You wanna bring a national convention in, people have to fly into Philly or Newark and commute over an hour to the city. With service from United coming in from Chicago and Houston you’ll be 15 minutes away from the city. It’s gonna be a tremendous help to marketing the city,” said Sen. Jim Whelan.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey chairman David Samson also spoke.
The Port Authority took over operation of Atlantic City airport this summer.
The governor said he’s pleased Atlantic City appears to have gotten a new mayor last week.
His own travels take him to Washington for a big speech Monday, then a Republic Governors meeting in Arizona.