Terry Mattson: Visit Duluth welcomes United Airlines’ Chicago serviceUnited Airlines now offers nonstop service from Duluth International Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Twice a day. Seven days a week.
By: Terry Mattson, Budgeteer News
United Airlines now offers nonstop service from Duluth International Airport to Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Twice a day. Seven days a week.
Combined with Delta Airlines’ five daily flights to Minneapolis-St. Paul plus two daily flights to Detroit, getting in and out of Duluth is better than ever.
Wherever the final destination, people have more choices in how and when to get there. Beyond ease of travel, there’s more at stake: Expanding travel services have a direct positive economic impact.
“Each daily flight has over $4 million in annual impact on the regional economy, which means the impact of United’s service will be in excess of $8 million each year,” said Duluth Airport Executive Director Brian Ryks. “We need to think of this as a new business that is investing by locating in our community. Our focus needs to be on retaining this business through our support of this service.”
Ryks says some people have told him that “we’ve been down this road before,” referring to the time American Airlines began offering nonstop service to Chicago in 2004, only to discontinue it within 6 months.
“One reason they stopped is that the U.S. Department of Transportation required American to reduce operations because of congestion at O’Hare,” Ryks said. “Duluth being among the newest routes was one of the first to be cut.”
Additionally, the reason Duluth enjoys non-stop service to Detroit today is a result of American Airlines entering the market and the competitive response from Northwest, which introduced the service on the same day American started.
Things have changed. O’Hare’s undergone major upgrades which have solved the congestion issue. Delta has reduced seats in Duluth, which has opened the door for additional service. What’s more, United is starting with a more conservative approach.
The new air service means more available seats and likely lower airfares, which is fantastic news for Visit Duluth’s efforts to attract more meetings and conventions. Our convention market alone generates approximately $35 million of tourism’s annual direct impact.
Multiple carriers over the years have demonstrated negligible impact on leisure travel to Duluth, however. Carriers service demand, but they don’t create it. We are hoping to influence that.
Economic impact is generated in many ways, including airport jobs, convention business, hotel stays and restaurant visits by people flying in and out of Duluth.
The biggest impact, however, may come through recruiting new businesses and industry.
Visit Duluth is reaching out to United Airlines, which will graciously consider hosting flights for qualified travel writers representing the Chicago area. Our goal is generating more media exposure through editorial print and electronic media coverage.
Familiarizing additional meeting planners with Duluth is also on our horizon. We’d like to consider advertising in Chicago; however, resources don’t even come close to saturating our core Twin Cities market.
Allegiant Air also started low-cost twice-weekly nonstop service between Duluth and Orlando. That service is off to a great start and is in addition to Allegiant Air’s twice-weekly nonstop flights to Las Vegas. Delta offers five daily flights to and from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and two daily flights to its Detroit hub.
In the midst of this additional service, the airport is undergoing a $65 million project that includes a new terminal.
The project is expected to be completed in 2013. The airport will remain fully operational throughout. Northwest and Delta have served Duluth with consistently good service for many years. We also need to use these new services just as we would rally around any other business that is new.
Even when the economy recovers, things won’t quite return to normal. We need to be creative when selling our community. We need to be aggressive. We need to invest. Together we will overcome the challenges ahead.
Kudos to Duluth International Airport for enhancing the region’s transportation infrastructure. A whole new world is opening up.
Terry Mattson is the president and CEO of Visit Duluth, the city’s convention and visitors’ bureau, and is responsible for leading the official destination marketing efforts. Contact Mattson by telephone at (218) 722-4011 or by e-mail at email@example.com.