Just Askin': How full are flights at Willard Airport?

Just Askin': How full are flights at Willard Airport?

Email your biz questions to Ben Zigterman at bzigterman@news-gazette.com.

According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average flight from Willard in 2016 was 81.75 percent full.

"If you look at our average, it's around 80 percent. If you look at our peaks, it's closer to 90 percent," said Willard Executive Director Gene Cossey.

The DOT measures occupancy by load factor, or the number of miles flown by passengers divided by the available miles that could be flown if the plane was full.

The load factor at Willard for outbound flights peaked last October (90.72 percent), while the slowest month was January (69.24 percent).

With the addition of United Airlines flights beginning June 8, Cossey expects the average load factor to decrease temporarily until more people become aware of the service.

A high load factor demonstrates demand and can help airports attract airlines. But if the flights are always full, potential customers might start to assume there won't be seats available.

Willard's average load factor in 2016 was slightly higher than at Bloomington-Normal's Central Illinois Regional Airport (77.30 percent) and Springfield's Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport (78.47 percent). Peoria International Airport's was 83.03 percent.

The industry average was 82.43 percent.

In 2003, the average load factor at Willard was 55.50 percent. Cossey said this reflects an industry shift by airlines from competing on volume to competing on efficiency.

"The airlines' business model really changed," he said. "They used to saturate the market with tons of seats and be happy with 60 percent. Now they want a fuller aircraft."

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Bob from Champaign wrote on March 19, 2017 at 9:03 am

These statistics are interesting, but incomplete.  I would love to see a breakdown of who is purchasing these tickets.  I'm wondering if the majority is purchased by the U of I.  The prices are so expensive to fly from Willard that I can't image there are a lot of purchases that aren't corporate or government bookings.

Gennadius wrote on March 22, 2017 at 6:03 pm

Over the last several years, as airlines have actually started using capacity discipline, prices out of CMI have been comparable to flying direct out of other stations. There are times, infrequently but they do happen, when it is cheaper to fly out of CMI than to fly direct out of ORD, for example. More often than not, the price is similar to slightly more expensive. Often the price of spending the time, driving, and parking will more than offset the slightly increased ticket price of CMI, at least from my perspective. 

chief21 wrote on March 20, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Good point....I can fly cheaper from Bloomington to Orlando...than from CMI to Chicago? Of course if you are U of I, cost is not a factor.

Gennadius wrote on March 22, 2017 at 6:03 pm

First, people aren't flying from CMI to Chicago as a destination, they are flying to connect, so that's already a broken comparison. Beyond that, you're comparing apples to oranges by comparing a LCC at one airport to a mainline carrier at another airport where no LCCs are present.

At the U of I, there is no policy that CMI must be used, at least there wasn't the last time I worked for them. In fact, overall cost would be reviewed, that means the cost in reibursment for mileage driven, time spent travling overall, parking, plus ticket.