BY BRIAN PEACH
[Mon Sep 15 2003]
MURPHYSBORO -- New charter flights out of Southern Illinois Airport will likely provide charter flights from Carbondale to Chicago by the end of October.
Gary Shafer, manager of Southern Illinois Airport, said Monday that the 50-minute flights will be marketed to businesses and to administrators at Southern Illinois University Carbondale who have frequent trips to Chicago, but who have to spend extra money and time driving to St. Louis for a flight or taking a train to Chicago.
Through the charter service run by Chicago-based Priester Aviation passengers would fly into Chicago's Midway Airport or Palwaukee Municipal Airport. They could then fly back later in the day or return a couple days later.
"(Priester Aviation) brought this idea to us a couple months ago after a federal law was passed allowing it," Shafer said. "They wanted to be the first ones out of the gate."
The flights are non-stop, and instead of selling individual seats, the plane itself is chartered. The type of plane used would be an 8-passenger Citation corporate jet, which will be available for viewing on Sept. 24 at Southern Illinois Airport. The airport and development agencies will host the meeting to inform businesses about the benefits of this service.
Paul Simon, director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, has advocated chartered flights from Southern Illinois for years.
"I would be a frequent user of the flights as long as they're at a reasonable cost," Simon said. "I go up to Chicago a lot.
"The train fits my schedule rarely, so I've been driving to St. Louis, which is a huge waste of time. This would save me a considerable amount of time."
Joe Mangi, director of business development and a pilot at Priester Aviation, said the flights are directed toward businesses but anyone can charter a flight to Chicago. The ticket price has not been set, but Mangi said it would likely cost $450 to $500 per person for a round trip.
He said the company is developing a program to determine how much interest there is in the flights. He said next week's open meeting is part of that plan. If the chartered flights are popular, more may be scheduled to fly from other Southern Illinois cities.
Mangi expects the flights to be successful because there are no quick ways to reach Chicago from Southern Illinois. Flights, such as the ones Simon takes, leave St. Louis each day, but they are not much faster than driving.
"By the time you go through all the rigor of getting to Chicago from St. Louis, it's three or four hours," Mangi said. The approximately 330-mile trip from Southern Illinois takes about 51/2 hours to drive.
Weather would not cause many travel problems because the charter planes will fly above the clouds at 30,000 feet, he said.
Mangi said Priester Aviation will be able to provide charter flights because it is not an airline. As an executive charter company, it does not have to follow a set schedule, which Mangi said helps them better serve their customers.
"When I flew for an airline, if the plane was scheduled to leave at 8, the doors closed at 8," he said. "If somebody is a little late, we'll be able to wait 15 to 20 minutes."
This is AWESOME news for my hometown airport!!!! Its one thing to live near MWA and have commercial flights, but I think its far better to have charter lfights to Chicago!!!! Comments??