Heartland Airport may add flights to and from Chicago

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 5:28 PM CDT
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MARION, Ill. (KFVS) -Flights to and from Chicago out of Southern Illinois? That is currently in the works and a real possibility.

It’s a joint collaboration from the City of Carbondale, the City of Marion and Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois.

Airport Director, Doug Kimmel, talked about the opportunity it could give Southern Illinois. “It’s a great opportunity for us to be involved with the communities that represent our region. That are working together to try and get in place a service that’s highly sought after.”

Kimmel said he knows the importance of the region buying into the plan to make this effort happen.

“We’ve made the point that for any air service to be successful, it takes the support of the region, of the people in the area that’s going to actually use and buy tickets for the flights,” said Kimmel

Currently Cape Air flies out of Veterans Airport in Marion, to St. Louis and Nashville. Two years remain in that contract. Those flights are subsidized by the federal Government.

“The push right now is for the state of Illinois to fund this, this spring, in the current legislative session in a matter of weeks. Once that happens, and then the work takes place on bidding the service and getting the airline established. By fall we can be flying from here to Chicago,” said Kimmel.

The prospect of Chicago flights sparked the interest of city leaders back in 2019.

Carbondale Economic Development Director, Steve Mitchell, shared a study on passenger demand from northern Illinois to Southern Illinois. “We had a study conducted on passenger demand, and it showed that there were 600,000 visits between Chicago, coming from Chicago to the Marion area, Marion Carbondale area.”

The airport plans to target potential customers throughout the Southern Illinois region.

“Our area, or our catch may area, included just south of Mount Vernon, all the way down to Vienna, and on the west over to Murphysboro and DuQuoin and that area all the way to the east to Harrisburg. Almost a quarter of a million people in that area.” said Mitchell.

Mitchell explained the economic boom this may have on the entire region.

“So it’s going to impact our largest employers, it’s going to impact our smallest employers, it’s going to impact tourism. It’s going to be a very important asset to economical development in the region,” said Mitchell.

Kimmel said he is hoping the State gives the airport a shot.

“We’re looking at this as an investment that they can put forth as an interstate transportation improvement project between northern Illinois, southern Illinois and give us a couple years to see how it’s going to work,” said Kimmel.

Kimmel said a one way ticket to Chicago would average about $90, a round trip would be about $180.

That’s based off the proposal that was given to the airport 2 years ago to try and originally get flights to and from the Windy City,

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