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As American Airlines struggles to stay out of bankruptcy, their plan to re-organize air service has left Midwestern airports in a quandary. Beginning November 1, American Connection flights to St. Louis will drop from 31 to 12 for Peoria, Springfield, Decatur, and Bloomington, collectively. Peoria will lose six of its nine St. Louis flights daily but will add at least two to Chicago by American Eagle. Springfield and Bloomington both will go from 10 to three flights daily. In Decatur, American to St. Louis is its only air service, and it will be spared its three daily flights. Peoria was more fortunate than Moline, which lost all of its daily flights to St. Louis. 

American took over the St. Louis hub in its acquisition of TWA just before September 11. The prolonged effect of the terrorist attack, coupled with the poor economy and changes in the industry, have made St. Louis the worst performing hub financially. St. Louis, as a hub, will be losing more than half of its daily flights-from 417 to 207-in an effort from American to cut $4 billion in annual operating costs. As the economy recovers and our local elected officials continue their dialogue with the airline officials, we hope this is a temporary setback.

Peoria will still have more daily flights by American than the Springfield, Decatur, and Bloomington airports. We still have air service to four main hubs-St. Louis (American Connection), Chicago (United & American Eagle), Atlanta (ASA/Delta), and Minneapolis (Northwest Aerolink)-to get our travelers out of the Peoria area. You still can get to where you want to go, typically with only one stop.

Even though downstate Illinois airports rely heavily on the St. Louis hub, it’s not going to be a major change for our local travelers. St. Louis has meant a lot to central Illinois, especially Peoria, going back to the Ozark days in the 1950s. The St. Louis hub will be downsized to meet the air service needs of the greater St. Louis market, and connecting traffic will be limited. This change means more people will need to be routed on the American system via Chicago rather than St. Louis.

This change is a result more of a change in the industry rather than our support of the service. American’s strength in its partnership with our region is reflected in our six American Eagle flights after November 1, giving Peoria the strongest American service over the other Illinois airports. We can thank you, the Peoria area travel warriors, for that support.

Even though the changes aren’t detrimental to our survival, it should be taken as another warning signal that our support and use will determine the level of air service. As reported last month, we’re continuing to develop a plan to get additional service to Peoria. More details to come. IBI

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