Charlottesville to get direct Chicago flights

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    By Bryan McKenzie
    Published: March 14, 2011

    If Chicago is your kind of town then you’re in luck: An American Airlines affiliate will soon fly twice daily from Charlottesville to Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport, airport and airline officials say.

    American Eagle, the regional affiliate of American Airlines, will fly two non-stop, round-trip flights between O’Hare and Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport beginning June 9.

    “We’re excited because our studies showed that [Chicago flights] are something that will benefit our community,” said Barbara Hutchinson, executive director of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport. “We’ve been in negotiations for some time for a non-stop flight to Chicago and we think this will be well received.”

    American Eagle officials agree.

    “We’re delighted to serve the area from our cornerstone hub in Chicago,” said Gary Foss, vice president of planning and marketing for the airline. “Now, it will be easier for Charlottesville residents to access the United States and the world through American’s gateway at O’Hare International Airport.”
    American Eagle will have its landing fees and rental fees waived for a year, officials said. That, they said, is in keeping with industry practices.

    “It’s common for the first year’s fees to be waived, but we expect to see increases in income from parking revenues and other income from more people using airport services,” Hutchinson said. “We’re confident it will increase traffic and we’ll see an increase in income after the first year when fees take effect.”
    Airport officials are still seeking service to other destinations, including Boston, Miami, Orlando and expanded flights and service to New York.

    Meanwhile, the Chicago service will not only get Central Virginians to the Windy City quicker, it will allow local travelers to connect to other flights out of O’Hare, including international flights. Flights to Chicago will depart at 6:30 a.m. and 4:25 p.m. daily. Flights from Chicago will land 3:55 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. daily.
    “It provides travelers more choices both domestically and internationally,” Hutchinson said. “It will also provide carriers more competition and hopefully benefit the community as the other airlines [operating at the local airport] have to sharpen their pencils a little bit.”

    American will use 44-seat, Brazillian-made Embraer ERJ-140 jets for the flights. There are no reports of incidences or crashes in the Federal Aviation Administration’s database involving the aircraft.

    Airport officials have been shopping for a ride to Chicago for several years, using FAA data that includes information on where ticketed passengers met connecting flights and final destinations to influence decisions.
    While they were in discussions, airport officials were informed that Delta Airlines was ending its service from Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport to Detroit. That service ended August 1.

    Oddly enough, that worked in the officials’ favor in winning the Chicago contract with American.
    “It helped us because Detroit would have been a competitor to Chicago as far as connections to other flights, especially internationally,” Hutchinson said.

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