Improving Business in the Wilmington Region

Taking off! First Chicago, D.C. flights depart Wilmington

By Hunter Ingram Star News Staff

Posted Apr 9, 2018

United Airlines inaugurated its first nonstop flights from the Port City to Chicago and Washington-Dulles Monday morning

WILMINGTON — Visiting the Windy City and the nation’s capital is now just a flight away from the Cape Fear region.

With a pair of oversized scissors and plenty of local officials, United Airlines was welcomed back to the Wilmington International Airport with a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its twice-daily nonstop services to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International Airport.

During the ceremony, which drew about 60 people in front of the newly opened United ticketing gate, New Hanover County Chairman Woody White quoted Wilmington City Councilman Paul Lawler by saying, “Today is a great day for the city of Chicago.”

White continued on to say it was also a great day for the region as well.

“This is the crown jewel of this region,” he said.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo echoed those words acknowledging the new flights open up opportunities for the region’s residents, specifically easier access to Chicago White Sox and Cubs games and his favorite Chicago restaurant, Portillo’s. All joking aside, the mayor said he was proud to see the new flights link the Port City to more international hubs.

“We are a wordwide connection with American Airlines, Delta and United,” he said.

Airport Executive Director Julie Wilsey said the new flights are key to the future of the airport and represent the end of its current capacity. United’s debut fills the last two desks on the ticketing counter.

“We plan 20 years out,” Wilsey said. “We have had this is in the plan but, certainly, United fills the ticket counters. We are starting to have to schedule gate use for arriving and departing flights. So we know we are certainly at the point to grow.”

Wilsey said the state legislature has budgeted $5.9 million for 2018 and 2019 to fund an expansion of the terminal and the airport’s capabilities. It is currently in the design phase, with plans to start expanding by the end of the year.