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Airport Seeks Chicago Flight, Renewal Of City's Grant Support

By Cece Nunn, posted Feb 20, 2017
The director of Wilmington International Airport said Monday that ILM officials are close to landing a nonstop flight from the Port City to Chicago.

The statement was part of a request by ILM director Julie Wilsey to Wilmington City Council members to renew the city's pledge of $50,000 in support of a U.S. Department of Transportation economic development grant.

The grant, which came three years ago with a $750,000 commitment from the U.S. DOT and resulted in $211,000 in community pledges, aims to improve nonstop routes from ILM, Wilsey said. New Hanover County had pledged $100,000 in support of the grant, which was set to expire last month, Wilsey said.

"But we were able at ILM to get a one-year extension, so we got another 12 months to try to be successful,” in getting an airline to offer what officials hope will be a Chicago or Dallas-Fort Worth nonstop flight, Wilsey told council members during their agenda briefing Monday morning.

“We think we’re very close to a carrier who is interested in Chicago,” Wilsey said.

The Windy City is one of ILM passengers’ most popular destinations not currently served by a nonstop flight, Wilsey told the council. Although the grant support was also sought three years ago, the effort came at a time when airlines were cutting back on routes, but a push to gain more nonstop routes has continued, she said.  

Last year, ILM set a new overall record by serving more than 815,000 passengers. Those who fly out of ILM can currently find regular, nonstop routes to Charlotte, New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia, according to the airport’s website.  

In 2011, American Airlines affiliate American Eagle announced two daily nonstop flights from Wilmington to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. But direct flights to well-known destinations have come and gone in ILM’s history, and the Chicago offerings ended in April 2012.  

On Monday, Councilwoman Margaret Haynes asked Wilsey when the airport will again be able to offer a direct flight to and from Washington, D.C.

“We’re still trying to get that as well. That is not a qualifying nonstop for this particular grant … but we always have Washington airports on the list,” Wilsey said.

At the end of the airport discussion at Monday’s meeting, City Manager Sterling Cheatham said that a resolution regarding the renewal of the city’s $50,000 commitment in support of the grant would likely be on a council meeting agenda in March.
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