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The new year should get off to a good start for local air travelers, with two of the area's low-fare airlines planning improvements in their schedules beginning in January.

AirTran Airways is adding a third non-stop flight to Atlanta beginning Jan. 18, and Shuttle America will increase its number of nonstop flights to suburban Boston from one to three on Jan. 10.

Kathy L. Terryberry, city manager for AirTran, said her Atlanta-based airline decided to add a midafternoon flight to its morning and evening schedule in response to an upswing in traffic.

"We've been doing a lot better," she said. "The general public is supporting us and travel agents."

AirTran, which began serving Buffalo in April 1998, also has hired a new sales person to seek more passengers from the business community. Terryberry said that effort plus a strong response to low-fare carriers in general locally have helped increase traffic.

The new flight will leave Buffalo at 1:45 p.m. and arrive in Atlanta at 4:03 p.m. Other AirTran flights depart Buffalo at 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. AirTran provides connecting service to several Florida cities and other locations in the Southeast and Texas.

Shuttle America, which began operations here in November 1998, has seen an excellent response since starting service to Hanscom Field in suburban Boston in September. The first three flights required a stopover in Trenton, N.J., before proceeding to Hanscom.

In October, Shuttle America started a nonstop flight to suburban Boston and added two connecting flights through Hartford, Conn., in addition to the three flights via Trenton. The January service will increase the number of nonstops to three out of the six daily flights.

"We are pleased at the continued commitment of both AirTran Airways and Shuttle America to provide the Niagara Region with quality, low-cost air service," said Lawrence M. Meckler, executive director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

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