Bloomington Normal business and government leaders are declaring success for an incentive program to lure Frontier Airlines service to Denver. All the money used to fund a revenue guarantee agreement is being refunded to investors and municipalities. A year after it began, Chamber of Commerce head Charlie Moore says the money for the Community Air Service Initiative or CASI was never needed. Moore says the deal was about more than money.
"When it comes to measuring success, it wasn't all financial. It was analyzing the mean and the median fares, comparing the number of seats available on the plane to the number of passengers actually on the plane, as well as analyzing flying to Denver compared to those who use Denver as a gateway to their final destination."
Moore says this success would make it easier for another program to begin, should a proposal come forward. Central Illinois Regional Airport Director Carl Olson says the route has proved itself even in an era of diminishing numbers of airlines.
"In the 12 months since Frontier came into the market, Denver fares have dropped 28%, 28% in a year. A the same time, the traffic demand from central Illinois to Denver increased by over 250%."
The actual growth was 288% as nearly 30,000 passengers made the trip in the last 12 months. Denver went from number 17 to number 3 on the Central Illinois Regional Airport list of destinations. Olson says the airport in Bloomington has regained roughly two thirds of the traffic lost by the departure of AirTran Airways a couple years ago.
Several hundred thousand dollars goes back into city and county coffers. Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner says such public private partnerships are key to further growth.
"It is absolutely essential that we have timely air transportation through out community to other important destinations. Denver and of course Orlando is critical. It's not just economic development, it's also quality of life."
McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen says the Community Air Service Initiative proved itself.
"McLean County, Bloomington Normal continue to be the fastest growing downstate Illinois county. And there are reasons for that. This is one of them. The joining together of our public entities and our private entities to prove that not only are we optimistic about this market, but that we believe where this market is going and we are just continuing to grow."
The Chamber of Commerce will preserve some of its own money as a starter fund in case other air service proposals come up.
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