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New Flights Could Lift Jobs, Tourism

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Apr 6, 2018
Travelers in and out of Wilmington to nonstop flight destinations in Chicago and the Washington D.C. area, will soon line up at United Airlines' counter area inside the Wilmington International Airport. (Photo by Rob Kaiser)
Wilmington International Airport's (ILM) newest nonstop flights to two major cities in the United States are scheduled to begin Monday and are already having an impact on economic development prospects.

Natalie English, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said an international company interested in establishing a North American headquarters is one of those prospects.

"One of their concerns about Wilmington was whether they might have the access to points around the globe that they would in other communities like a Raleigh or a Charlotte," English said of the company, the name of which she did not disclose.  "And we think that being able to share with them the addition of these flights -- we think we might have pushed that one over the goal line. We don't know yet, but we are excited about the possibility."

United Airlines will begin its daily nonstop flights Monday between ILM and Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and ILM and Dulles/Washington D.C. (IAD). Daily flights to ORD are scheduled to depart from ILM at 11:45 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and two flights to IAD are scheduled to depart from ILM at 10:20 a.m. and 7:35 p.m., according to United's flight schedule.

United Airlines is now the airport's third major carrier, along with Delta and American Airlines. Adding to the list of ILM's nonstop flights, American Airlines is expected to begin several such flights this year.

Leading up to the arrival of United Airlines, a new passenger boarding bridge was ordered to go into Gate 1 at ILM. Work has also been taking place over the past several months to prepare United's counter areas and inside the concourse area around the gate.

Airport officials previously said the flights will "benefit a broad segment of the traveling public, including business and higher education leaders as well as families and vacationers." The new carrier is also benefiting the Wilmington area by bringing 22 jobs.

From an economic development and business growth perspective, "the more connections that we can provide from ILM to other parts of the world are critical," English said.

She said the chamber is excited about promoting the message that the Wilmington area has "more convenient access to even more places around the globe because we have added these flights.

The chamber has heard from companies such as Wilmington-headquartered Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) and General Electric that the flights will be helpful for business, English said.

English was not able to give additional information about that international business, but used it as an example what the additional flights could do for the region. Coupling the added flights with the "ease of getting in an out of ILM -- compared to a Charlotte-Douglas or a Raliegh-Durham International -- you just can't beat the convenience," English said.

"We're excited about it and we will be there to celebrate the first flight [on Monday]," English said. "It just makes us more competitive for the jobs that make sense in our region."

From a tourism standpoint, Connie Nelson, spokeswoman for the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), the new flights open up "new opportunities."

"It will certainly have an impact on travelers in those areas who are visiting friends and family that live in the Wilmington area," Nelson said. "We believe it also has the potential to make Wilmington a stronger destination for meetings and conventions from the destinations that United services."

Chicago O'Hare is consistently ranked as a top destination for those who fly out of ILM, most recently ranking No. 5, according to airport officials. The Chicago flight also offers convenient connections to those traveling to the West Coast, including places like Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Seattle, as well as international connections. Washington Dulles is also another international gateway.

American Airlines will also begin offering daily year-round nonstop service to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in May and summer seasonal service to ORD in June. The carrier is also offering seasonal flights on Saturdays to Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) from April to October.
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