Southern Illinois city officials believe a flight option to Chicago could be a gamechanger

City leaders in southern Illinois are backing a proposal for flights from Marion to Chicago.
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 9:50 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:22 PM CST
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MARION, Ill. (KFVS) - City leaders in southern Illinois are backing a proposal for flights from Marion to Chicago.

Leaders in the both Marion and Carbondale say if flights to Chicago are chosen, it would be a great boost for tourism, the economy and growth for the entire region.

Cody Moake, City of Marion Chief of Staff, believes a Chicago option would benefit both the city of Marion and southern Illinois.

“It will not only help the tourism industry, we think it could help economic development as a whole. We’re talking about recruitment of doctors, nurses l, new businesses coming south. The impacts I think for the university could be huge and all of our local higher learning institutions,” said Moake.

A total of three proposals have been shared with Veterans Airport for a new service. They include the following:

  • Contour Airlines: flights to Chicago or a flight to Chicago and Nashville, based upon what the airport would prefer. Flights would be in a 30-seat regional jet product.
  • Southern Airways Express: flights to St. Louis in a 9 seat aircraft and also a flight to Chicago on a 30-seat plane.
  • Cape Air: continued same air service to St. Louis and Nashville or an option of just St. Louis flights, with the same current aircraft.

Carbondale city leaders believe Contour Airlines is the best fit for the region, including Carbondale Economic Development Director, Steven Mitchell.

“The Carbondale business community has been full support of this, all of our elected officials have been in full support of this. It’s been a very concerted effort to see a proposal like this come to fruition. So we’re excited about it,” said Mitchell.

According to Mitchell, a recent study shows 700,000 visits a year between the Chicago area and southern Illinois. Carbondale Economic Development says a proposal for flights to Chicago has been on the drawing board for awhile.

Mitchell says this has been a joint effort between the City of Carbondale, City of Marion and the Airport Authority since 2020.

“It’s sometimes hard to get really experienced executive talent to an area like southern Illinois, because without direct passenger flights to Chicago, there’s no easy way to get to southern Illinois. I’ve actually heard that from nationwide business people,” said Mitchell.

Moake says flights to Chicago would be a gamechanger for Illinois.

“When we think of regionally what the impact could be of connecting Marion and the region to Chicago, personally I would argue that that impact is too great to pass up,” said Moake.

Flights would be to Chicago’s O’Hare International airport. The link to voice your opinion on which airline should fly out of Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois can be found here.