August 14, 2008

CIRA Will Offer ‘Big D’American Eagle Flights to Dallas Take Off Nov. 2

By Michelle Koetters

BLOOMINGTON - At a time when reductions in airline service have become common, the Twin City airport has added a new destination.

American Eagle Airlines will offer one daily nonstop flight between the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport beginning Nov. 2, the companies announced Tuesday.

"It's just a huge victory for the community and the airport," said Carl Olson, airport executive director.

The flight will leave Dallas-Fort Worth at 1 p.m. and arrive in Bloomington at 3 p.m. The 50-seat plane will then depart from CIRA at 3:25 p.m. for a 5:30 p.m. arrival in the southwestern city.

The new service starts the same day United Express will pull its three daily Chicago flights out of the Bloomington-Normal market. American Airlines' American Eagle regional carrier also flies to the windy city. Other airlines that also serve the Twin Cities are: AirTran, which flies to Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta, Ga.; Delta Connection, which also flies to Atlanta; and Northwest Airlink, which flies to Detroit.

American Eagle and American Airlines have laid off more than 6,000 employees and have taken 100 older, gas-guzzling airplanes out of service as the airline industry struggles amid record-high oil prices this year, said Mary Frances Fagan, corporate communications with American Airlines.

The company also will relocate some flights to other markets in an effort to do better and make more money in different locations, Fagan said.

The biggest factor in American Eagle adding another flight in Bloomington was community support - American believes it will draw a lot of traffic in the Twin Cities, she said. American also flies to Dallas/Fort Worth from the Champaign and Peoria airports.

"It goes without saying, people in Bloomington-Normal ... have long wanted to be able to fly from here to DFW," said Fagan. "Until now, the time hasn't been right."

Officials expect the service to be used by businesses such as State Farm Insurance Cos. as well as leisure travelers. A sample fare during November obtained online by The Pantagraph showed a price of $330 for a round-trip, economy ticket.

CIRA knows it is fortunate to receive the new service to Texas at this time, said Paul Harmon, chair of the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority. The airport's passenger counts so far this year are indicators that American Eagle will do well with the Dallas flight, he said.

The airport's July traffic, with 49,908 passengers, was up 6.8 percent from the 46,703 travelers in July 2007. The airport also is up 4.9 percent for the year, with 322,327 travelers in 2008 compared to 307,240 individuals in the same time last year.

"With service here, people will use it," Harmon said.

Airport officials have wanted a flight to Dallas since the new terminal opened in the fall of 2001, Olson said.

Dallas is a desirable destination by itself, but the new service also offers great options for connecting flights, Olson said. Because American Airlines is the largest airline in the world - and Dallas/Fort Worth is American's largest facility - Central Illinois travelers will have hundreds of domestic and international destinations available to them, he said.

"This becomes a great way to get to the West Coast," Olson said.

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