Clearing the air about Willard's new second airline

Clearing the air about Willard's new second airline

Steve Carter talks Willard Friday at 10 on WDWS.

Now boarding, with service from Savoy to Chicago O'Hare: United Flight 4617. Tickets have been on sale since February, but the historic first flight for Willard Airport's new second airline doesn't take off until 2 p.m., a half-hour following United's scheduled first arrival here.

Airport and airline officials will mark the occasion with a 1 p.m. celebration today at Willard. Staff writer BEN ZIGTERMAN has the answers to what having two airlines could mean for consumers.

Will competition lead to lower ticket prices?

A: That's what happened with rates for Chicago-bound flights when Evansville (Ind.) Regional Airport added United two years ago, Executive Director Doug Joest said.

Willard officials say they've already seen competitive pricing with flights to "routes that they find that they want to fight over," Associate Director Steve Wanzek said.

For example, a July 14 weekend round trip to New York through O'Hare costs the exact same amount on American as it does on United — $386.

Rates depend on a number of factors, Wanzek noted, including how full the flights are on the next leg out of Chicago.

United is adding three Willard-to-O'Hare flights a day (5:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5:32 p.m.) on top of the five American Eagle already has. Can it fill all 150 seats?

A: The flights are about half full now, Wanzek said, adding: "That's pretty good, actually, and the good news is, American's numbers are staying strong."

American's flights were about 87 percent full in February, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. For all of 2016, American's flights were 82 percent full.

The goal is for United to eventually hit 85 percent capacity.

Steve Carter, chair of Willard's advisory committee, said the new flights are aimed primarily at business travelers. The airport is still trying to attract a leisure carrier," he said. "That's another part of the market that we're missing."

I want to spend Thanksgiving 2018 in Maui watching Brad Underwood's Illini basketball team. Can I get there from here in under two stops?

A: You can now. The Hawaiian island is one of the 27 new unique destinations United will offer one-stop service to out of Savoy. Among the others: Amsterdam, Dublin, Hong Kong and Mexico City.

United is the world's largest airline in terms of cities served, with flights to 360 cities on five continents. O'Hare, its largest domestic hub, provides direct service to 208 destinations — 153 domestic, 55 international.

Will more seats mean longer security lines?

A: It shouldn't, Wanzek said, given that departures for American and United flights are all at least an hour apart. Nor does the Transportation Security Administration anticipate having to hire additional officers to screen every passenger, agency spokesman Michael McCarthy said.

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whatithink wrote on June 08, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Why the heck do they need so many flights to Chicago?  It would be nice to fly to somewhere like Denver, Washington D.C., Boston, anywhere BUT Chicago or Dallas. 

787 wrote on June 08, 2017 at 2:06 pm

That's how it works.   You're only going to get to go from Willard to some large hub... be it Chicago, Dallas, or someplace like Atlanta.

Once you get to Chicago or Dallas (if it isn't your ultimate destination), *then* you can get on a plane that will take you to where you need to go.

If you want to fly dirctly to a destination, you're just not going to be able to do it from an airport the size of Willard.  It's just not possible to offer direct flights to Denver or Boston.

Lostinspace wrote on June 08, 2017 at 4:06 pm

If there is a market for more flights to Chicago, why didn't American add them (not that I love American)?

Gennadius wrote on June 09, 2017 at 1:06 pm

United will probably be trying to pull more from a market that was untapped here, and that would be UA dominant fliers. So while AA was able to capture all of the traffic that preferred to fly with them, as well as some traffic that had no other choice, I am sure that there was a healthy amount of traffic that was leaking out to ORD specifically to fly UA.

This could be because they are FFs for UA, or it could be because their company requires them to fly on UA if it is for business.

Beyond that, since the UA flights do add new 1-stop destinations, there will likely be additional traffic that is generated due to having the additional carrier as an option.