The Quad City International Airport welcomed 143 passengers Thursday who were leaving chilly Midwestern temperatures behind for the sunny skies of Arizona with Allegiant Air's inaugural flight to Phoenix-Mesa.
"The last time the Quad-Cities had service to Phoenix was in 1992," airport Director of Aviation Bruce Carter said in a news release. "Since then, we have been working on gaining the service back."
In October, Mr. Carter said people in western Illinois and eastern Iowa have been wanting flights to Phoenix and Las Vegas, and he was pleasedthat the airport added both within a month. Allegiant's inaugural flight to Las Vegas took off Oct. 14.
The flights to Phoenix-Mesa will operate twice-weekly between the QCIA and the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport with service on Thursdays and Sundays. According to Allegiant's website, a round-trip ticket to Phoenix-Mesa flight would run less than $200.
QCIA marketing representative Cathie Rochau said the flights were off to a strong start. The plane's capacity is 150, and it took off with 143 passengers. Sunday's flight is scheduled to take off with 147.
She said she heard from a number of passengers about how happy they were to finally have a direct flight out of the QCIA and has had "nothing but positive feedback."
Vickie Benac, of Rock Island, was traveling to Phoenix-Mesa with her father, Bill Burbridge, of Davenport.
"I like the idea of non-stop," Ms. Benac said, though a delay of about an hour brought a little "chaos" to the front counter, she said.
Allegiant's manager of public relations Sabrina LoPiccolo, said a mechanical problem Thursday morning required the airline to use a different plane for the flight into the Quad-Cities, which caused the delay.
Ms. Benac said once the kinks get worked out, "it will be wonderful to be non-stop. And you couldn't beat the price," she said.
In the past, Ms. Benac said her family would drive to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, so "this is 150 percent better."
Paul and Joyce Dennison from Mount Pleasant said they travel to Phoenix-Mesa about three times a year "to play some golf, eat a lot of good food, get some sun, shop," Mr. Dennison said.
"It's a great place," he said.
The two usually would fly out of the Cedar Rapids or Des Moines airports, but the two were happy to be flying out of the Quad-Cities on Thursday. "The non-stop is wonderful," Mr. Dennison said, and "it's a smaller airport."
The Dennisons thought the added business to the airport was also a plus. Mr. Dennison said it was nice to see a long line for the flight, and Ms. Dennison agreed. "It's nice the see the airport being utilized," she said.
Jacob Lind, who lives on a farm near Keokuk, was flying Thursday to visit his daughter. "It's great," he said of the flight.
To get to Phoenix-Mesa, he said he and his wife usually would drive to Cedar Rapids, but the schedule of the Quad-Cities flight made more sense. "I'll get there a lot earlier," he said.
Mr. Lind said non-stop flights are "a real advantage," and he plans on using the new flights in the future.
"I'll definitely take advantage when the time comes."
Today is Wednesday, March 12, the 71st day of 2014. There are 294 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Soldiers from the barracks on the Arsenal manage to elude the vigilance of the guard nearly every day and come to town armed. In the hands of excited and perhaps intoxicated men, these weapons are dangerous. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Manufacturing's merchants and professional men of Moline were petitioning the Western Union Telegraph company to establish a telegraph office in the business area of the city. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Three Rock Island students, the Misses Eleanor Cleaveland, Dorothy McCabe and Ruth West, escaped injury when fire destroyed College Hall at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War gave a party for William H. Stremmel, the only survivor of John Buford Post 243, GAR. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The East Moline Grade School Board of Education last night granted salary increases totaling about $47,000 to teachers and staff members. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Five champion spellers from the Rock Island/Milan School district were selected after competition this week at Modern Woodmen of America. Winners are Sarah Cottay, Christopher Gilbrich, Jared Vogele, Kedric Roper and Kenny Stevenson.