The state’s first-ever nonstop transatlantic air service—provided by Delta Air Lines from Indianapolis International Airport to Paris—will begin in the spring, airport officials announced Wednesday afternoon.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, speaking at a press conference at the airport, said the flights are "a game-changer" and a "big, big win for our entire state."
The first flight will be May 24, with a 6:20 p.m. departure from Indianapolis and an 8:45 a.m. arrival in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris on May 25. Tickets will go on sale beginning Sept. 23. Nonstop flights from Paris depart at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Indianapolis at 4:35 p.m.
The flights will connect Indiana and Europe year-round with service scheduled at least three times per week, state officials said. The route's frequency will increase during certain spring, summer and winter months, reaching daily service during the peak summer season.
Currently, Indianapolis’ only nonstop international flights are to Toronto and to Cancun, Mexico. Over the past 18 months or so, both the Indianapolis Airport Authority and state officials made landing transatlantic air service a top priority, and they took numerous steps to support the effort.
The airport authority estimates the new air service could have a $50 million annual impact on Indiana’s economy.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Delta Air Lines up to $5.5 million in conditional incentives to land the new flights. The incentives, which are subject to approval of the IEDC Board, are to be awarded based on the number of passengers served by the route over the next two years. The IEDC did not say exactly how many passengers Delta would have to attract to fully qualify for all of the incentives.
In early 2016, the airport authority, the IEDC and the Indy Chamber formed a coalition focused on landing a nonstop flight to London. Then, in May, the airport authority hired the Indy Chamber to help it with both air service development and land development. Under the terms of the 12-month agreement, the chamber will earn up to $180,000 for the work.
In June, the airport authority also beefed up its incentive package for international air service. Under the changes, an airline that begins new international service here can earn up to $400,000 in marketing support over the first two years, depending on frequency of service. Previously, the airport had offered a maximum of $50,000 in marketing support—items such as banners, digital advertising and airport floor decals—for the first year of a new flight.
And the Indiana state budget that passed this spring included a new $15 million economic development fund that the IEDC could tap for a handful of approved uses. One of those approved uses is to help attract new air service.
This is not the first time the state has offered incentives to an airline to add flights. When United Airlines established nonstop service between Indianapolis and San Francisco in 2014, the IEDC agreed to provide up to a $1.5 million annual backstop to cover any gap between the airline’s quarterly revenue and a contracted minimum. United added a second daily San Francisco flight in August, and all the flights are now supported by market demand.
As it was working on its own plans for transatlantic service, the airport had an eye on the competition.
In March 2014, British Airways added service between Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas, and London’s Heathrow Airport.
And, just last month, British Airways announced that it would begin five-day-a-week service between Nashville International Airport in Tennessee and Heathrow. Those flights begin in May.