American won't restore service to Q-C - Quad-Cities Online: Employment

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American won't restore service to Q-C

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Posted: Friday, May 12, 2000 1:00 am

A spokesman for American Airlines said Thursday the company has no plans to restore air service to the Quad-Cities, dashing hopes of creating a Moline-to-Dallas link or reducing airfares to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

American Eagle, the Dallas-based regional carrier for American Airlines, dropped its Moline-to-Chicago service last summer because its Moline passenger count was below the volumes of other cities it serves.

Instead, the airline added then-restricted O'Hare slots to Omaha, Neb.

Quad-Cities officials argued that American's passenger count would rise if the airline used jet service, as does its competitor United Express.

Last March, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, wrote American chairman Don Carty, asking the airline to restore the Chicago O'Hare service and begin direct service to Dallas.

Dallas is one of the top five destinations for Quad-Cities travelers. Without American's air-service to Chicago, United Express has a captive local market of full flights and a lock on the airfare.

But American's plans are set.

``It's unlikely we'd be going back into that market within the year,''said airline spokesman Mark Slitt. ``Right now, our new airplanes are going elsewhere.''

The airline re-examines its routes periodically and is always looking for opportunities to serve new markets, he said. ``In another year of so, we might look at the Moline market again,'' he said.

American Eagle expanded its jet service between Cedar Rapids and Dallas May 1 and plans to cut service between Chicago O'Hare and Springfield July 1.

Pat Souders, project director for Sen. Durbin's Washington office, said Thursday he thought the airline ``was missing a golden opportunity in western and central Illinois.''

The Quad-Cities delegation made a compelling argument why the airline should return service to the Quad-Cities, he said. ``It seems like American made a decision that leaves us puzzled,'' he said.

Although American Eagle is focusing on its regional jet service, which will help Peoria and Champaign, it has turned its back on the state capital, he said.

Local officials doubt American will ever return to the Quad-Cities and are ready to move on. Airport and business leaders knew American had no intention of returning after meeting with them a few weeks ago, said Bruce Carter, airport director of aviation.

``I'm really disappointed in them,'' he said. ``This is a market that will make money for them. But now I'm ready to move on and continue working with our existing carriers.''

Mr. Carter thought the current $17 million airport expansion -- to be completed in December -- would weigh favorably with American representatives. The airport will double its gates to 12 to accommodate more flights and add new carriers.

Quad-Cities' boardings are expected to increase about 6.3 percent this year.

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