Editorial | The Charlotte connection

Editorial | The Charlotte connection

The airport business has its up and downs.

Being the bearers of bad news a week ago, officials at Willard Airport moved quickly Wednesday to put out some good news.

Willard Executive Director Gene Cossey announced that American Airlines is adding a flight to Charlotte, N.C, the airline's second-largest hub.

This is, indisputably, great news because that means local passengers can make a connection that offers flights all over the eastern and southern United States, not to mention Canada, Spain, Mexico and the Bahamas.

Tickets will go on sale July 14, and service on a 45-seat aircraft will begin Dec. 19.

Cossey said he expects ticket sales to be brisk and said "we'll look toward adding additional capacity."

This kind of news would be welcome anytime. But it sounds especially good following the disappointing disclosure earlier this month that United Airlines is ending its service to Willard as of Sept. 4.

United began service in June 2017, when it started offering three flights (105 combined seats) daily from Willard to O'Hare Airport in Chicago.

American Airlines currently provides flights to Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth, both hubs that offer a wide array of traveling options to the flying public.

United said Willard was one of three regional airports affected by its decision to cut back service, ostensibly because of a pilot shortage.

That lapse in service may have prompted American to move to fill the void created by United.

Cossey said American's timing "was escalated due to United leaving" because the airline "wanted to take advantage" of the situation.

Local officials have been trying for years to boost air service out of Willard, both as a means of offering more options to leisure travelers but especially to business travelers as a means of boosting the local economy.

Air transportation is considered key to attracting businesses and people who might not otherwise find Champaign County appealing.

In that context, news of the Charlotte connection is a real shot in the arm. In the end, however, this is about business. If American doesn't find this new effort profitable, it won't hesitate to pull out of Willard, just as other airlines have in the past.

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