American Airlines will give Central Illinois air travelers another reason to Fly Champaign-Urbana.
American Airlines announced its plans to add a flight from Champaign’s Willard Airport to Charlotte, giving passengers three distinct destinations from Champaign-Urbana (the others being Chicago O’Hare and Dallas-Fort Worth) by the end of 2018.
Charlotte is an international airport, with 160 destinations in 25 countries. Charlotte Douglas Airport recently was ranked No. 2 in the nation by business travelers. More importantly, it gives Willard customers easier access to the East and Southeast, and an alternative to going through Chicago.
The service will start on December 19, with one early morning flight from Willard Airport and a return flight from Charlotte in the evening. Customers will be able to start booking their flights to Charlotte on Saturday, July 14.
“The Charlotte to Champaign route is the first new hub available to the region in more than 10 years and it is what our whole team has been working towards for quite some time,” said Willard Airport Executive Director Gene Cossey, in a news release. “Passengers can expect dozens of new one-stop destinations and easier connections to the southeastern and northeastern states.”
The announcement comes a week after United Airlines’ decision to end service out of Willard Airport, after about a year of flying between Champaign and Chicago O’Hare. United Airlines blamed the decision on a nationwide pilot shortage, not on lack of interest in the Champaign-Urbana market for United service.
Willard Airport celebrated a record service year in 2017, with more than 104,000 enplanements.
The Charlotte route will add to the five daily flights to Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and two daily flights to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) American currently offers to Willard passengers.
Willard Airport is owned and operated by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It has the distinction of being one of only two commercial airports in the country owned and operated by an educational institution.