Direct flights between Wilmington and Dallas will start later this year at ILM – but just for the holidays, airport officials announced Tuesday.
American Airlines will run daily nonstop flights between Wilmington International Airport and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) Dec. 23-Jan. 7. (The route does not include Dec. 24).
Airport officials were notified by American Airlines of its new holiday service on Monday, according to ILM Airport Director Julie Wilsey. The new flight schedule opened for booking flights on Sept. 22.
The holiday season -- Thanksgiving to early January -- is the busiest travel time of the year, Wilsey said. The airport averages about 50,000 passengers a month, but during the month of December ILM’s average passenger totals rise to about 62,000.
“Our community has expressed a strong desire to have non-stop service between ILM and DFW, and we are thankful our partners at American Airlines are offering this seasonal non-stop holiday service,” Wilsey said in a statement.
DFW is the eighth-most popular destination and originating city for Wilmington passengers, officials said. It’s on ILM’s top 10 nonstop destination list, Wilsey said.
The American Airlines connection to DFW is a first for the airport, she said.
American Airlines currently runs regular, nonstop service between ILM and Charlotte, New York/LaGuardia and Philadelphia. The Fort-Worth, Texas-based airline also has seasonal service between Wilmington and Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport.
"We're getting new seats to a new market and that's fantastic,” Wilsey said Tuesday. “We would love to hold on to Dallas. It all depends on how we do during this trial period. It also depends on American's business model. They still have a strategic plan and it has to meet their revenue model and their business model. But it's a great first step.”
The airport averages more than 17,500 people traveling to Dallas each year, she said. DFW is one of the larger American Airline hubs, Wilsey said, with favorable connections to the West Coast, including connections to Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle.
“Just going to Dallas, we have good demand. And we believe connecting through the Dallas hub is favorable for our travelers,” Wilsey said.
Dallas is not the only nonstop destination airport officials are working towards. Of the top destinations, Wilsey said officials would like to see nonstop routes to Chicago and Boston.
Officials are constantly working toward developing new services and destinations for its travelers, she added.
"We have an air service development program at ILM and we are always working with our two incumbent carriers -- Delta and American -- looking for new service that we can justify with our current demand,” Wilsey said. "We are also trying to attract new carriers and it's a challenging market.”
Bringing new services to ILM is a continuous process, she said.
“We stay in contact with the planners for the various airlines and try to build a strong relationship and try to impress upon them just how strong the ILM market is,” Wilsey said, adding that she also travels to conferences held throughout the year to meet with various airlines and airports to “sell our business case to each of the carriers and each of the destinations."
Of the Dallas destination, Wilsey added, "We think it’s a great first step and hopefully will open a lot of opportunities for Wilmington for business and leisure travel.”