SeaPort Airlines is rolling out an early-bird special in anticipation of the March 15 launch of air service between the coast and Portland.

Passengers who book a flight 21 days in advance before March 15 can fly one-way for $49.

"It's a smokin' deal," said SeaPort Chief Executive Officer Kent Craford. "We want people to try it once because once they try it we know they'll keep coming back."

Later, ticket prices will go up to one-way rates of $75, $99, $129 or $149 based on availability. The $149 ticket is refundable.

The Port of Astoria and the city of Newport last year received $4.5 million in state and federal grants to attract air service to the coast. The two governments and SeaPort signed the contract for service last week.

SeaPort will start service March 15 with two daily round trips to Newport and three daily round trips to Astoria.

The schedule is as follows:

Astoria to Portland: 6:30 a.m., 10:25 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Portland to Astoria: 5:40 a.m., 9:35 a.m. and 5:10 p.m.

Newport to Portland: 4:45 a.m. and 12:05 p.m.

Portland to Newport: 11:15 a.m. and 6:50 p.m.

Craford said his company is preparing primarily radio advertising for the passenger air service in Astoria and Newport while also targeting Seattle and Portland area residents with disposable income to spend on weekend trips to the Oregon Coast.

Some of the ads for urbanites may include a pitch promising to deliver passengers to the coast "quicker than it takes to build a sandcastle," said Craford.

SeaPort is looking to lure passengers from Washington's Puget Sound by hitching its new coastal air service to existing flights between Boeing Field and Portland International Airport, which the company launched last June.

"You can now drive to Boeing Field in the afternoon, park for free, and be at the beach in time for the sunset," Craford said in a recent press release.

The claim isn't so far-fetched. SeaPort flies between Seattle and Portland in 90 minutes, and its flights between Portland and Astoria are projected to take less than 25 minutes.

SeaPort Airlines will operate out of the Astoria Regional Airport (AST) in Warrenton and the Newport Municipal Airport (ONP) in Newport. The airline also currently flies out of the Business Aviation section at Portland International Airport, King County's Boeing Field in Seattle, and the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton.

Tickets can be purchased at SeaPort's Web site, (www.seaportair.com) or by calling (888) 573-2767. Fares to the Oregon Coast from Seattle start at $179 each way.

SeaPort Airlines operates Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12s, a pressurized, fast and comfortable turbo-prop aircraft. SeaPort Airlines is an assumed business name of Alaska Juneau Aeronautics. Alaska Juneau Aeronautics and SeaPort Air's sister airline, Wings of Alaska, are wholly-owned subsidiaries of SeaPort Air Group, LLC, a Portland-based company.

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