BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. — Thirty-one passengers on American Airlines’ first flight from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport were welcomed at Tri-Cities Airport with gifts and celebration on Wednesday.

The airline’s nonstop service from DFW at TCA means convenience for passengers by eliminating the need for connector flights out of Knoxville or Charlotte. DFW is American Airlines’ largest hub, where nearly 900 daily flights to more than 200 destinations in 30 countries are available, which Tri-Cities Airport passengers now have access to through connector flights.

Two Tri-Cities Airport Authority Fire/Rescue trucks shot water to create an arc over the plane after it landed to celebrate its arrival, and passengers were given a gift bag and refreshments when they arrived in the terminal.

Tri-Cities Airport Authority Chairman Jon Smith said he’s excited about the new flight service.

“We’ve always had very good connections to the South and Northeast, and this western connection is going to make it a lot more convenient for passengers to travel,” he said. “If you’re going to be flying internationally, it makes it much more convenient.”

One of the passengers, Jonathan Gardner, of Dallas, Texas, who is an American Airlines employee, enjoyed his flight despite delays caused by a mechanical issue with the plane, he said. When he found out about the new flight service, he said he wanted to be on the first flight to TCA. He comes to the region a few times a year to visit his longtime friend, Eric Beach.

“It’s a lot more convenient,” Gardner said. “I usually have to fly to Knoxville or fly through Charlotte.”

Gardner and Beach will be on an American Airlines flight today out of TCA back to DFW to spend time with Gardner’s family.

Josh Ellis, American Airlines senior analyst of network and schedule planning, cut the ribbon ahead of the arrival of the first inbound flight from DFW.

“We’re excited because, hopefully, it increases traffic into the area and that it’s a little bit easier of a travel experience to get somewhere for local businesses, as well as the local community,” he said.

Tri-Cities Airport Executive Director Gene Cossey reminded those who attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the importance of the local airport.

“Tri-Cities Airport is your airport,” he said. “It’s here in your backyard. It is your hometown airport, and there is nowhere in the world you cannot get by flying out of Tri-Cities. It’s easy. It’s fast. It’s convenient. This is just one more opportunity you have for easy, fast and convenient flights.”

Victoria Edmisten, of Arlington, Texas, was also on the inaugural flight. She celebrated Wednesday with the flight home to Kingsport to see her family on her fifth work anniversary as an American Airlines flight attendant.

“I didn’t realize that this was such a big deal to the community,” Edmisten said. “It was to me because this is my hometown, but I didn’t realize they were going to do the whole shebang until we were in the air. … It’s [TCA] not an easy place to get into until now.”

Dawn Fischer, of Beaumont, Texas, flew into Tri-Cities Airport on Wednesday from a connector flight out of Charlotte to visit her daughter and son-in-law in Jonesborough. She didn’t know about the new flight service when she arrived, but she was thrilled to find out about it and plans to use it to go home.

“This is a good surprise,” Fischer said. “It saves me one little plane jump.”

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