With the news of United coming to town (service begins April 9), the Wilmington community has been abuzz with chatter about what it means for the Wilmington International Airport (ILM) to have an additional network carrier, and how the new non-stop service to Chicago will benefit the community.
One of the most common questions heard by airport executives is, What does it take to get a new air carrier and/or a new destination? The answer is a lot of hard work, effort, collaborative partnerships, data, data and more data, along with a little bit of luck.
Ongoing Efforts - It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Throughout the year, the team at ILM communicates with airline network planners to make the case for the Wilmington community and ILM airport. During these ongoing conversations, the ILM team shares why the airline, such as United, should expand its operations to ILM airport and provides a community overview.
Items highlighted during these recruitment conversations include: the number of residents within a 50 miles radius of ILM; the fact that population growth in New Hanover and Brunswick counties are outpacing the state and U.S. averages; that home sales jumped 41 percent year over year (indicating a strong economy); and that our area has a higher GDP growth than N.C. or U.S. averages. The team at ILM also highlights the area’s top employers, the growing technology sector and the strong tourism market.
Airlines, such as United, review the community presentation and take this information into consideration when looking at new service areas in which to expand their network. Airlines also look at the airport’s travel trends and data, such as top geographic markets traveled to and from ILM, the demand for seats and revenue generation, as well as the capacity trends of existing flights. Normally, network planners continue conversations with an airport over numerous years; while they monitor trends and acquire resources (airplanes and pilots).
Connecting People & Places
In ILM’s conversations with United they were very interested in the strong growth of the Wilmington community, and the fact that the airport is supported by both business and leisure travelers.
When looking at options for service between ILM and another city, Chicago rose to the top. Chicago is the number-five destination for those departing from ILM. Chicago is United’s headquarters, and Chicago O’Hare (ORD) airport is an international hub for the airline.
In speaking with the team at United, they were pleased the route between ILM and ORD would enable customers to make convenient connections to many more United destinations beyond their Chicago hub, as well. The flight from ILM to ORD is well-timed to offer 80 connecting markets beyond Chicago O’Hare, including western destinations, such as Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and many more.
A non-stop flight to Chicago has been the number-one request made by our community. The team at ILM is grateful to United for their investment. Historically, the demand for the service is apparent, and we look forward to showing United - sooner than later - that their investment in the Wilmington community was a smart business decision. For residents of the region, Chicago is a strong recommendation for summer vacation plans.
The new United service offers convenient non-stop flights between ILM and Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
for business, leisure or a combination of both. The non-stop flights are offered twice daily, with a late morning departure, as well as an early evening departure. Search for flights between Wilmington and Chicago O’Hare (ILM-ORD) at www.united.com
Julie Wilsey has been the Airport Director of Wilmington International Airport (ILM) since December 2013. After six years as an Army Engineer officer, Julie joined the ILM team as the Director of Facilities.Since 1999, she has helped ILM grow with airfield and facility improvements, completing over $100 million worth of capital projects. A career milestone includes earning her accreditation as an airport executive with the American Association of Airport Executives in 2008. Julie holds an MBA from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and a Bachelor’s Degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point. An active member of the community and aviation industry, Julie serves on the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission, the NC Aviation Task Force, Cape Fear Area United Way Board of Directors the Downtown Wilmington Rotary Club, WILMA, the North Carolina Airport Association and the Southeast AAAE. Julie is married to LTC (Ret) Donald Wilsey, USA, has a stepdaughter, Lauren, and two cats.