ST. LOUIS — Nonstop travel from St. Louis Lambert International Airport to Europe returned Wednesday for the first time in over 20 years.

St. Louis leaders gathered at Lambert to celebrate the inaugural Lufthansa Airlines flight from Frankfurt, Germany. The first inbound passengers entered the Gateway City with a warm welcome that included a big celebration and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the gate.

Shelly Wares was the first passenger through customs.

“Being born and raised in St. Louis,  having this airline being able to come directly from Europe is huge. It avoids all the issues in Chicago and Newark, and we’ve been stranded many, many, many times,” said Wares. “I’m so glad St. Louis has done this for everyone.”

Lufthansa will fly from St. Louis to Frankfurt three times per week. Once on Wednesdays, once on Fridays, and once on Sundays. The first Lufthansa flight crew arrived Tuesday night to be on Wednesday’s first flight to Frankfurt.

“St. Louis is back on the map,” said Mayor Tishaura Jones. ” We haven’t had an international flight to continental Europe in over 20 years. This is going to open up the world to St. Louis and St. Louis to the world.”

Wednesday’s ceremony also included a trade delegation of nearly 30 business leaders.

“We have better opportunities to get to Europe faster, easier. We can be more efficient. But for the region, it’s going to open doors for people who were considering maybe going to Europe for vacation or thinking about a business trip. This is going to push them over the edge,” said Andrew Taylor, executive chairman of Enterprise Holdings.

St. Louis was previously one of the largest American cities without non-stop service to Europe. The last direct flight was on TWA to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris in September 2001, according to a press release from St. Louis Lambert International Airport.