New flight plan

New flight plan

SAVOY — Passengers who fly to Chicago out of Willard Airport will see new flight times starting Sunday — including an earlier pre-dawn departure — but city bus schedules will change to accommodate the schedule.

American Airlines is shifting to a summer schedule, as it has for the past few years, according to airport Manager Steve Wanzek.

The 6 a.m. departure has been moved to 5:31 a.m., arriving in Chicago by 6:34 a.m. And three of the four other flights are also moving up by about a half-hour. The exception is the 2:23 p.m. departure, which will be pushed back to 2:45 p.m.

The schedule leaves a mid-day gap in departures between 10:20 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. But American will be adding another Chicago flight next August, departing at 12:15 p.m., Wanzek said.

Under the schedule that starts Sunday, the first arrival from Chicago will be much earlier — 9:49 a.m. rather than the current 11:29 a.m. — which should accommodate travelers flying in to Champaign-Urbana for business, Wanzek said.

Two other arrivals were pushed up by 15 minutes, but the final two will be later, with the last flight coming in at 10:49 p.m. The terminal currently closes at 10:30 p.m. but Wanzek said hours will be expanded to accommodate the later flights. The terminal will remain open for an hour after the last flight arrives, probably until midnight.

"It's a fairly typical summer adjustment, where they move the earliest takeoff up earlier, and then move the last arriving flight later," Wanzek said Thursday.

The early flight poses no problems in terms of noise restrictions, as the noise "contour" from the regional jets doesn't extend beyond airport property, he said.

The summer schedule is driven by a number of factors, including overseas traffic, Wanzek said. For example, routes between the U.S. and Europe are set over the North Atlantic, and airlines then try to arrange their domestic "feeder" flights to ensure passengers can transfer to and from those international flights, he said. Secondary or regional routes to Champaign, in turn, might be scheduled to meet those feeder flights.

Some airports, such as Reagan National in Washington, D.C., also have "quiet hours," when no planes can take off or land, he said.

American knows where people fly out of specific airports — in Champaign, the top destinations are New York, Washington and San Francisco. The airline tries to ensure good connections to those cities through Chicago or Dallas, he said.

Willard has one flight daily to Dallas/Fort Worth, but Wanzek has been working for months to land another eastbound destination, such as Charlotte or Philadelphia, to make east-coast travel more convenient. Currently, many passengers have to fly to Chicago and another hub before getting to their destinations, changing planes twice, he said. Adding Charlotte or Philadelphia would open 60 or 70 destinations to a one-stop connection, rather than two, he said.

"I think it's likely. The numbers are there. American tells us they're making money here," Wanzek said.

The airline is still working on its integration with USAir but "they should have resolved a lot of those things by now," said Wanzek, who's been meeting with American officials every six months for the past couple of years. "In my opinion, it's time to get to us. It's frustrating that there's been no progress yet."

Wanzek estimated that the airport loses 50 to 80 percent of some businesses' travel because they can't get a flight.

"They like flying out of here. The problem is, I can't get enough seats," he said.

Meanwhile, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District has adjusted its bus schedule to Willard to accommodate most of American's new arrival and departure times. Its "Air Bus" provides service from the Illini Union to the Illinois Terminal to Willard and back.

In the past, the Air Bus was timed to get University of Illinois students back and forth to pilot-training classes at the Institute of Aviation, he said. But now the aviation program is run out of Parkland College, and the Air Bus service is geared toward getting passengers to and from the airport to catch flights, Wanzek said.

"They went to great lengths to change the bus schedule to coincide with this new schedule, and that's not something that they normally do," Wanzek said. "This is a real positive step that they took to interact better with the airport flight schedule for the passengers who use MTD."

The Air Bus won't make it out in time for the 5:31 a.m. flight, but will arrive by 6:05 a.m. And the last bus leaves the airport at 9:30 p.m.

Jan Kijowski, MTD's marketing manager, said the university funded the old route to serve aviation students. The Illini Union, a self-supporting auxiliary facility of the university, now subsidizes the route to help people staying at the Illini Union hotel get back and forth to the airport. International students arriving from across the country, especially Chicago, also benefit from the Air Bus, she said.

"It's designed to meet the schedule as best we can of incoming and outgoing flights," she said.

Funding for the Air Bus runs through mid-summer, and the university will then decide whether to continue subsidizing the route, Kijowski said. Willard Airport is not in the MTD's taxing district, so "it's important that we have some support to keep it running," she said.

American Eagle flight schedule changes at Willard Airport, effective Sunday:


Current  New
6 a.m.  5:31 a.m.
7:30 a.m.  7 a.m.
11:54 a.m.  10:20 a.m.
2:23 p.m. 2:45 p.m.
6:15 p.m. 6:05 p.m.

*-American is scheduled to add a 12:15 p.m. departure in August.


Current  New
11:29 a.m.  9:49 a.m.
1:57 p.m.  1:45 p.m.
5:47 p.m.  5:31 p.m.
7:59 p.m.  9:01 p.m.
10:14 p.m.  10:49 p.m.

*-American is scheduled to add an 11:34 a.m. arrival in August.


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Dogsrule732 wrote on March 27, 2015 at 9:03 am

How about a direct flight to Florida and free parking?