New Willard director: 'We need to capture some destinations'

New Willard director: 'We need to capture some destinations'

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SAVOY — When Gene Cossey accepted the job as Willard Airport's executive director, one of the biggest selling points was the airport's "underutilized resources" and untapped potential.

Rather than seeing Willard as what it is now — six daily arrivals, six daily departures — Cossey is dreaming big.

"We need to capture some destinations," he said. "You would want to look toward an East Coast hub and going west some place."

Without doing extensive research — he doesn't officially start as the University of Illinois airport's new leader until Dec. 7 — Cossey said potential direct destination cities include Charlotte and Denver.

Adding those, he said, would help fliers get where they need to without having to go through Chicago's busy O'Hare.

Cossey said he couldn't envision landing direct flights to Washington, D.C., despite its popularity among UI travelers.

"There are not (many) direct flights there," he said. "That's why we should focus on East Coast hubs that are open and have growth and potential."

As far as business flights, Cossey says American — the only airline currently flying in and out of Willard — would be a natural fit in adding more hub destinations.

American now offers at Willard five daily round-trip flights to Chicago and one to Dallas-Fort Worth. Anticipating heavier holiday traffic, a seventh daily flight — to and from O'Hare — will be added from Nov. 5-30.

Business travel is the biggest untapped market for Willard, Cossey said, but he also sees potential in adding leisure flights, perhaps via Allegiant Air or Spirit Airlines.

Cossey said he'd like to expand air service within five years. He believes it's possible, even in the face of aircraft changes and pilot shortages.

"Given the market that's being lost, there's room to expand," he said.

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Bob from Champaign wrote on October 28, 2015 at 7:10 am

You want to make Willard a huge success?  Get an airline to provide $99 flights to a Southwest hub city. Midway would be the obvious choice but that's a tough nut to crack. Port Columbus could be a good choice or maybe Baltimore. By the time you drive and park at any of the major airports around here, you'd at least break even and maybe even save money by taking a $99 flight. Still be expensive for families, but one or two people traveling would enjoy the benefits of not having the long drives at either end of their journeys. 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on October 28, 2015 at 11:10 am
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I'd give a kidney to have Spirit (or Frontier) service Willard.

Spirit serves Plattsburgh, NY and Charleston, WV; so it's not completely impossible. But Plattsburgh is an hour south of Montreal, and Charleston is the state capital.

loopillini wrote on October 28, 2015 at 9:10 am

I fly regularly for work and always use Willard. A Charlotte route would be a great addition for me, if we can't get Atlanta back. (even better) In addition, a second daily round trip to Dallas would also help to allow greater flexibility.

pziggy wrote on October 28, 2015 at 10:10 am

MHO: Denver is useless from an American/US Air perspective.  If you could land UA service it would be golden.  From Champaign, one stop to Hawaii?  Who wouldn't be for that?  And UA has no presence at BMI, their closest downstate operations are PIA/SPI.

Charlotte on the other hand gives you much better access to the east coast and the Caribbean than ORD or DFW and is a more favorable airport to deal with compared to both.  What are you guys waiting for, a "march on Airport Road"?  CMI is underused... let's get r done!


PS Drop the ridiculous 5 buck parking charge.  That lot is in the middle of cornfield just like BMI and PIA which both have free parking--no value.  Find a less offensive way to nickel and dime people.  No excuses.