Improving Business in the Wilmington Region

ILM lands nonstop flights to Chicago, Washington-Dulles

New United services, twice daily on each route, to start in early April


WILMINGTON — Wilmington International Airport is spreading its wings to the Windy City and the nation’s capital.

The airport, commonly known as ILM, is getting new daily nonstop service this spring to Chicago and Washington, D.C., on United Airlines.

“We’re ecstatic,” said Airport Deputy Director Gary Broughton. “For years we’ve been trying to get another airline in here and now to get nonstop service to two destinations is just fantastic.”

Both new routes will start with two nonstop flights a day and, according to United’s website, be operated by 50-seat regional jets. Tickets for the new flights, which start April 9, went on sale Monday morning.

Broughton said the new flights were made possible by the airport receiving a federal Small Community Air Service grant. The $750,000 grant offers an airline some financial cover by allowing the carrier to dip into the funds if revenues on the routes falls short.

“So that then gave us something to offer an airline if they put service in to Chicago,” Broughton said, adding that Chicago is consistently one of the airport’s top destinations.

That United came back and said they wanted to start service to Washington-Dulles International Airport, which like Chicago-O’Hare is a United hub, was just an added bonus.

Top 10 destinations from ILM

1. New York (LGA)*

2. Philadelphia*

3. Atlanta*

4. Boston

5. Chicago**

6. Newark

7. Denver

8. Dallas

9. Los Angeles

10. Orlando

* Nonstop flights from ILM

** Service starting in April

Source: Wilmington Int’l Airport

“It really is a win-win for us,” Broughton said.

The federal grant requires a $200,000 local match in ticket guarantees, which Broughton said local companies and several individuals have agreed to support.

“But hopefully the airline will do well with the new service and they won’t need to use the grant,” he said.

Airport Director Julie Wilsey said during a news conference Monday that getting a flight to Chicago has been her priority for years. Companies with Wilmington headquarters, including GE Hitachi and Live Oak Bank, have business partnerships in that city.

“They say a growing airport is a sign of a growing community,” Wilsey said.

Combined, the new flights will bump up foot traffic at the airport 10 percent, which currently sees about 1,300 fliers. Wilsey said the airport supports 4,900 jobs, and the addition of United will push that well over 5,000.

The last time Wilmington had nonstop service to Chicago was in 2012 on American Eagle, which dropped the service after about a year. The Port City hasn’t had a link to Washington-Dulles, which is the city’s international airport, since the early 2000s.

The new flights will give ILM seven nonstop destinations — the airport serves Philadelphia, Charlotte, New York-LaGuardia and Washington-National on American and Atlanta on Delta. American also is adding a daily nonstop flight between ILM and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) for the Christmas travel season.

New Hanover County Airport Authority Chairman Carter Lambeth said Chicago-O’Hare opens 80 connecting markets to Wilmington flyers, including Los Angeles. Washington-Dulles has 60 connections, including to international destinations like Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris.

Broughton said finding check-in desk and gate space for United at the airport shouldn’t be a problem.

By Gareth McGrath StarNews Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2017 at 4:42 PM