Edmontonians can now fly directly to New York with the first direct flight between the two cities taking off this morning.

The non-stop flights will operate six days a week on United Airlines to Newark, New Jersey.

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The United Airlines flight to New York taxis to the runway. (CBC)

"We built a very strong business case - our business community was behind us 100 per cent," said Edmonton Airports CEO Reg Milley.

About 44,000 people traveled to New York from the Edmonton region last year, equally mixed between pleasure and business, he said.

"Getting a direct flight to New York puts you on a whole different plane."

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel says this opens up a world of possibilities for the business community.

"New York is the centre of financial markets in the United States," he said.

"Now you can fly directly and it saves you three or four hours, Mandel said. "You get in at 2 p.m. You can theoretically do business in one day. If you get a meeting at the airport and do business 2 to 5 or 6 p.m. then catch a plane back at night.

"That's a great flight schedule."

Mandel and other community leaders were at the airport this morning for a celebration to mark the first flight.

A group is on this morning's flight for a trade mission to New York to promote the city.