Airport sees most passengers in 10 years

New flight options behind surge

SAVOY, Ill. (WCIA) -- Last year, Willard Airport saw the most passengers fly out of its terminal in more than a decade.

The biggest reason is because the airport added several new flights last year. It helped carry more than 200,000 passengers in and out of Champaign County.

"This is the most we've had as far as in-plane passengers since 2007," says Airport Director Gene Cossey.

You wouldn't know that from visiting Monday. Willard was a ghost town. But don't let that fool you.

"Today is kind of slow. Cancellations due to the weather in Chicago," says Tierra Wolfe, who works at the United Airlines desk. She says they usually stay busy there.

"We've been having really good business since we opened," she says. "A lot of the students have been flying with us, especially the teams, so that's really a plus."

"We've done our best to try to get the word out to people that they can fly local, they can fly out of here," says Cossey, "and we've done our best to try and attract more airlines' service."

He says new flights from United and American added thousands of seats last year.

"It's put an additional about 25,000 seats one way and about 50,000 seats two ways into our annual market."

Of course, he hopes that trend continues and wants Willard to stay as competitive as it can, despite whatever those airlines may charge.

"Unfortunately, the airlines set the rates. We don't get to set the rates," he says. "Some of our competition in the region does have low-cost carriers, and that drives the average fares down. What we always ask everybody, is always check here first, this airport's right in your backyard."

The director says after the peak in 2007, there was a slump because the airline industry was hit hard by the recession. This is a sign the airport is no longer affected by that.


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