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Canadian airline plans direct flights from Buffalo to foreign vacation destinations

Soon boarding: direct flights from Buffalo to Cancun and Punta Cana.

Sunwing Airlines, a Toronto-based airline offering round-trip flights to popular vacation destinations around the world, plans to again give meaning to the “international” in Buffalo Niagara International Airport by providing the airport’s first foreign service in more than a decade.

Beginning in early 2015, the airline will offer direct, nonstop flights once a week to destinations in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Two members of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority board of commissioners confirmed the details Thursday.

NFTA spokesman C. Douglas Hartmayer declined to comment but acknowledged “significant” announcements are planned for a news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Sunwing spokeswoman Janine Chapman also declined to comment, but in an email said to expect “exciting announcements around Buffalo service.”

“We don’t have all of the details in place at this time,” Hartmayer said. “Those will be made available Tuesday.”

International air service out of Buffalo would qualify as “significant” because it is believed to be the first direct international flight offered since Transat Holidays, another Canadian airliner, provided weekly trips to the Dominican Republic in the early 2000s.

The service is expected to attract more Canadian travelers as airfare grows increasingly expensive across the border.

Sunwing has a strong presence in Canada, offering low-fare flights from more than three dozen Canadian cities to destinations in Florida, Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and eastern Europe.

In the United States, Sunwing provides similar flights out of Cincinnati, Nashville and Atlanta.

Buffalo Niagara International Airport is growing in popularity with Canadian travelers. Almost 2 million Canadian tourists passed through the airport in 2013, according to the airport’s website.

Kenmore travel agent Steven Elliott said the addition of Sunwing creates another option for Canadian travelers who seek lower American fares since taxes on Canadian tickets make them almost twice as much as American tickets.

“It used to be a lot less expensive to catch a flight out of Canada,” Elliott said. But recently, “It has been less expensive to fly out of the Buffalo airport and they know it. Just go walk around the parking lot there; most of the cars parked there have Canadian plates.”

For local travelers on foreign honeymoons or vacations, it’s the first time since Transat Holidays ceased that they will be able to travel out of the airport without catching connecting flights in other cities.

There is reason to believe Sunwing will be more successful than Transat Holidays, Elliott said, because Canadian fares do not appear to be getting cheaper. He said Sunwing’s new service out of Buffalo will most likely be seasonal, since Buffalo travelers tend not to support year-round travel to vacation destinations.

“I fully expect it to run exclusively during peak season,” Elliott said, adding the only way it could be successful year-round is by offering only Sunday flights.

“I don’t think they’ll have any problems filling up their flights here.”