ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

American Eagle may return

With federal funds almost in the bank, American Eagle could resume service between Chicago and Duluth in March, if the airline agrees to a reduced level of financial support.

With federal funds almost in the bank, American Eagle could resume service between Chicago and Duluth in March, if the airline agrees to a reduced level of financial support.

Congressman Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., recently announced a $1 million federal grant to Duluth to help restore direct air service to Chicago. Grant documents show a commitment from the carrier to start service once there is a revenue guarantee in place.

The funding is part of a new federal program to help smaller communities enhance their airline service. It was the result of a $1.5 million request submitted by the city, the airport and the airline.

"I was delighted to receive word from the Department of Transportation approving a $1 million grant for Duluth,'' Oberstar said in a news release.

He said the grant, along with fund-raising efforts from the city and civic leaders, "will support not only a return to three-a-day service to Chicago, but also a vigorous marketing program to sustain this service."

ADVERTISEMENT

The federal money is part of a much larger package that includes financial and service commitments -- especially in travel budgets -- to the airline from a variety of public and private entities in Duluth and Superior.

It has yet to be decided by the airline if the difference between the amount requested and the actual award will affect the terms of service or even kill the deal.

"We're still having a discussion as to whether we can make that work or not," said Lisa Bailey, director of corporate communications American Eagle. "The million dollars was great but not as much as we asked for, so it is still being discussed."

The regional carrier operated by American Airlines was flying three times a day between Duluth and Chicago but stopped in December.

The carrier pulled out after four years, saying the service was not profitable and the aircraft were needed elsewhere. The airline's action cost Duluth International Airport an estimated $200,000 in lost revenue for 2003.

The grant comes from the Small Community Air Service Development Pilot Program authored by Oberstar. It was designed to help cities like Duluth address local air travel problems, such as high fares and insufficient service.

Oberstar said the reinstatement of service will also connect Duluth to Boeing headquarters in Chicago, in further support of Duluth's 7E7 proposal.

Brian Ryks, Duluth Airport Authority executive director, said it was great news for the region. "We are looking forward to the return of American Eagle, because competition is good and healthy for travelers in the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We are grateful for the assistance of Congressman Oberstar throughout this process. He has shown great leadership in helping smaller communities retain or reestablish air service.''

One of the goals of the transaction is to have the route profitable in two years.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.