updated 12/6/2007 7:11:57 PM ET 2007-12-07T00:11:57

United Airlines plans to begin offering direct flights next month between Washington, D.C., and nine East Coast cities, including four in West Virginia, the company announced Thursday.

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Though touted as opening up the world to fliers in Beckley, Clarksburg, Morgantown and Parkersburg, the new service does not include Mercer County Airport, which lost its commercial air service last month.

Beginning Jan. 7, United Airline Express, through its regional partner Colgan Air, will begin offering flights aboard 34-seat Saab SF-340 aircraft between Washington-Dulles International Airport and Parkersburg, Bradford, Pa., and Jamestown, N.Y., the airline said.

Service to and from the nation's capital and Clarksburg and Morgantown is set to begin Jan. 21, followed by service with Altoona, Pa. and Johnstown, Pa., on Feb. 4; and Beckley and Shenandoah Valley, Va., on Feb. 18.

Tickets are now for sale for flights to all nine cities.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said the new service should open up "new and more reliable domestic and international travel options" for many West Virginians. Flights out of Dulles fly to 26 cities across the world, including Beijing, Rome, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

"I commend Colgan and United for taking this step so that West Virginia businesses and families will have better air service options," the senator said in a prepared statement.

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