Heartland business owners hope new direct flights to Chicago will increase business

SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Flights to Chicago will now take off from Cape Girardeau, Missouri but 30 miles south of there, business leaders are excited about the opportunities the new service will bring.

Mike Marshall is Sikeston's economic development director. He thinks the new direct flights from Cape Girardeau to Chicago will be a game changer for the region.

"In a case of economic development recruitment, we've always asked, 'Well, where's the nearest air service?' Now, we can say it's 22 miles from here," he said.

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport Manager Bruce Loy said the new jets from Southwest have all the bells and whistles.

"A CRJ 200, which is a 50-passenger jet, regional jet, with flight attendant, lavatory, I'll just say the whole nine yards," Loy said.

Previously, many business owners in southeast Missouri had to go out their way to get on a plane to Chicago, like Alan Keenan who owns a wire company in Sikeston.

"For us, normally, we'll drive to St. Louis, which for us is two, two-and-a-half hours and then you connect many times going to Chicago," Keenan said.

According to Marshall, the new service won't just make things easier for current businesses in the Heartland but could also attract more.

"The more you can make it convenient for these folks to come take a look at you, the better it is for both parties," Marshall said.

Loy hoped the new service will also expand the airport itself.

He said if they can get 10,000 boardings a year, they would get a million-dollar federal grant to make major improvements.

The direct flights to Chicago will take about an hour-and-a-half and cost around $175 round trip.

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