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Air Transat Holidays will send a Boeing 757 from Buffalo Niagara International Airport to the Dominican Republic Monday, becoming the first Canadian tour company offering direct service from Buffalo.

And they're bringing Canadian prices with them.

The company has seen its U.S. bookings grow for years with travelers from as far away as Syracuse and Erie, Pa., lured to Toronto's Pearson International Airport by the value of the currency exchange.

For flights from Buffalo, the company has calculated the Canadian exchange rate, about 66 cents U.S., into its prices.

"The consumer traveling from the U.S. will be paying the same price with us by flying from Buffalo as they would if they boarded the plane in Toronto," said Paula Miller, sales manager for Air Transat.

Air Transat's packages start at $854 (U.S.) per person for a seven-day all-inclusive stay at the four-star Sol de Plata Punta Cana Beach Hotel in the Dominican Republic. The company will only fly to the Dominican Republic from Buffalo, but may add more destinations at a later date. Ten flights, leaving each Monday, are scheduled for the season.

The arrival of one of Canada's largest tour companies is good news for the local airport because it should increase traffic, fuel sales and business at airport shops.

"We like to position and market our airport as a regional airport," said C. Douglas Hartmayer, director of public affairs for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Air Transat's offering could lure people from southern Ontario and elsewhere, he said.

"The more traffic you can drive through the airport, the more prosperous it can be," Hartmayer said.

Miller said Air Transat consistently books from agents in Syracuse, Rochester and Erie. Most of those travelers will now leave from Buffalo.

The move could mean more competition for other tour companies, which also use Gate No. 1, which is reserved for charter flights at the airport.

"It's an easy drive for us from Toronto to service the airport and to service our aircraft there," Miller said.

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