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"Illinois airport must build on success to continue it"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Airport must build on success to continue it
The Bloomington (IL) Pantagraph

Central Illinois Regional Airport is setting a good course for growth.
Travel numbers are back to pre-9/11 numbers. The airport has already
surpassed the 500,000-passenger mark for the year - an all-time high. And
AirTran Airways is going strong as it celebrates its 10th anniversary at the
Bloomington-Normal airport.

To live up to its full potential, however, the airport needs to land
westbound air service.

Airport and Twin City officials understand that.

They have been working for such service ever since Frontier Airlines ended
its flights between Bloomington and Denver in 2001.

Besides Denver, airport officials have been looking at Phoenix and Salt Lake
City as possible western destinations.

The airline industry is in a state of flux, which hasn't helped CIRA in its
quest for expanded service.

The airport had an $850,000 federal grant available to subsidize flights to
the West. Unfortunately, it was not able to find a carrier interested in
offering such flights before the grant expired in September.

But the growth in passengers the airport has been experiencing should help
put CIRA on the radar for any airlines seeking to expand service or enter

While the nation as a whole has seen a drop of about 2 percent in airline
passengers, Central Illinois Regional Airport has experienced 13 percent
growth in the past year, according to its executive director, Carl Olson.

The number of passengers using the airport has tripled in the decade that
AirTran has served the Twin Cities and AirTran is a big part of that

The airport has service to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport; Orlando,
Fla.; Atlanta, Ga.; and Detroit through American Eagle, United Express,
Delta Connection and Northwest Airlink, in addition to AirTran.

Bloomington-Normal has a lot to offer, particularly with its relatively new
terminal and its location in a transportation hub that can attract travelers
from a wide area, thanks to Interstates 74, 55 and 39.

Business travel is generated by Illinois State University and companies such
as Mitsubishi Motors North America, State Farm Insurance Cos., Country
Insurance & Financial Services and Afni Inc., among others.

The relative affluence of the community also means a good market for leisure

CIRA's best year ever and AirTran's 10th anniversary in Bloomington-Normal
were well worth celebrating. Now it's time to build on those two milestones.

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