T.F. Green Airport has its first year-round international carrier.
The Rhode Island Airport Corp. announced Friday that TACV Cabo Verde Airlines will start year-round service from the Warwick airport to the Cape Verde Islands beginning June 2.
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The airline joins another international carrier at the airport, Condor Airlines. Germany-based Condor will begin round-trip flights to Frankfurt in June, but that will be a summer-only service.
Gov. Gina Raimondo said the new service to the Cape Verde Islands makes sense because Rhode Island has a large, thriving Cape Verdean community. She said the state needs a bigger, better and more strategic tourism program, and the new flights will help with that.
Cape Verde is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Senegal.
"We want to expose the rest of the world to Rhode Island and of course, we want to expose Rhode Islanders to the rest of the world," Raimondo said at the airport Friday. "This is one step in doing that and it's going to drive real economic development, so I view this as a huge step forward."
The past several years have been difficult for the airport as airlines drastically cut flights to mid-sized hubs because of the economy, said Jonathan Savage, chairman of the airport corporation's board. He said they're assembling a team and a program to "claw back" some of the business lost since 2005.
The runway is being lengthened to allow for larger, heavier planes, which will allow for flights to more distant destinations. The expanded runway is scheduled to open in late 2017.
Airport officials have spoken with their counterparts at the Shannon Airport Authority in Ireland about the potential for direct connections between Rhode Island and Ireland for freight and passenger traffic.
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said the airport is "going to the next level." He hopes there will be more international announcements to come in 2015.