A new day at Willard

A new day at Willard

Willard Airport has doubled the number of airlines that provide daily flights.

It wasn't just passengers that a United Airlines flight out of the University of Illinois Willard Airport was carrying Thursday.

The plane also was filled to the brim with the hopes of Willard supporters who believe that expanded air service at the Savoy airport is one of the keys to the future success of the community and the UI.

United last week became the second airline bringing local air service to East Central Illinois residents.

American Airlines provides flights to Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth. Now United is on board with three flights a day to Chicago. Of course, from places like Chicago and Dallas, much more extensive flight options are available.

As the largest domestic hub for United, Chicago's O'Hare Airport provides direct service to 153 domestic and another 55 international locations.

Fans who want to watch the Fighting Illini play basketball in Hawaii in Thanksgiving 2018 can fly out of Willard with one-stop service. At least they can if the market demand matches the airlines' supply.

Aye, there's the rub — the marketplace.

United and American are in business to make a profit. United believes it, like American, can operate profitably from Willard.

The key to success is both cost and convenience. Can travelers get from here to there, wherever there is, at a reasonable cost and convenience.

It's common knowledge that many local travelers have found it more cost-effective to drive to airports in Indianapolis, Chicago, Bloomington and other downstate cities than to use Willard. If that continues to be the case, the United experiment will not succeed.

United, however, did not make the decision to expand service to Willard on a whim. It's betting big money on making even bigger money. At the same time, Willard's executive director is laying the groundwork to add flights to the East Coast.

But it's the numbers that will tell the tale of success or failure.

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