SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that regular air passenger service to Chicago will be returning to the Decatur, Quincy and Marion markets in February 2007. The deal worked out with state assistance through the I-Fly program calls for daily flights to Chicago’s Midway airport between the three downstate airports. Currently, the only air service at the three airports is to St. Louis.
“Increasing travel options between Chicago and downstate communities will boost our case as we continue urging businesses to look at expanding and locating in Illinois,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “Just this week we doubled the number of state sponsored Amtrak trains, and now we’re bringing back air service to Chicago for these three airports. Having these options is good for business, it’s good for families, and it’s good for anyone traveling in Illinois.”
The deal that allows for expanded air service between Decatur, Quincy and Marion is possible through funding in the I-Fly program. The I-Fly program was created in 2003, but has never been funded. Under the Fiscal Year 2007 budget, Gov. Blagojevich and members of the General Assembly agreed to include $1.65 million in funding for the I-Fly program to restore air service between Chicago and these three downstate communities.
Air Midwest is scheduled to begin air service from Decatur, Quincy and Marion to Chicago’s Midway airport beginning February 1, 2007. There will be three flights scheduled during the week and two on weekends. In addition to the Chicago service, there will also be a round trip flight each day between Quincy and Kansas City. Air Midwest will use Beech 1900, which are turboprop planes that are capable of carrying 19 passengers per flight.
The I-Fly program is intended to provide incentives to airlines to begin operations in underserved Illinois airports. The Illinois Department of Transportation will provide grants to the airports in Decatur, Quincy and Marion that will guarantee a certain amount of revenue to Air Midwest for each flight. The local airports will be required to provide a 20 percent match.
The goal of the program is to provide an initial subsidy to bring airlines to underserved airports to initiate service, and then to work cooperatively with the local communities to help the service become self-sufficient. All three airports currently have air service to St. Louis provided by RegionsAir, a federally subsidized service. Air service to Chicago stopped in Quincy during 2003, Decatur in 1999 and Marion has not had any service other than to St. Louis since 1986.