Central Minnesota got a step closer to Florida this week when Allegiant Air began nonstop service from St. Cloud to Orlando Sanford International Airport.

It marks the first time in memory that the airport has offered commercial flights to more than one destination, Airport Director Bill Towle said. Allegiant also flies from St. Cloud to Phoenix/Mesa Gateway Airport in Arizona.

The inaugural flight to Florida carried about 130 passengers Wednesday.

The new schedule at the St. Cloud Regional Airport marks a change from several years ago. Delta Air Lines once offered flights to the Twin Cities but then left the airport without commercial service in 2010. Allegiant started offering flights to Arizona about a year ago.

"It's fun to see lots of people coming through here," Towle said. "It's fun to see lots of these families that have little kids likely going to Disney World."

Towle said he is optimistic about starting service to Chicago next, where passengers can easily connect to other destinations.

Pam Louwagie