CHICAGO (AP) -- A small, Michigan-based carrier has become the first airline to offer its financial support for a third Chicago-area airport.
Spirit Airlines, which runs 16 airplanes between 12 cities, wants to break into the Chicago travel market and committed to a new airport in far south suburban Peotone in a letter to Gov. Jim Edgar.
``We're very optimistic and pleased, but we realize that they're a small, leisure point-to-point airline and won't be enough by themselves,'' said Christine Cochrane, the airport's project manager.
Edgar is pushing for a new Chicago-area airport to relieve air traffic congestion in the region. But Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and major airlines serving the city, including American and United, oppose the plan.
Last year, England's Virgin Atlantic Airways expressed interest in the Peotone project as a way to break into the Chicago market, but no formal proposals were made, Cochrane said.
Spirit is willing to pay landing and rental fees and may also contribute to the airport's construction, the airline's executive vice president, Mark Kahan, said Wednesday. But the precise amount of money Spirit would be willing to commit to the project would depend on what other airlines sign on to it and the state's financing plan, he said.
Spirit has found it difficult to expand service in the Chicago area, Kahan said. The airline operates one flight a day, six days a week from Midway Airport. But Kahan said that airport's short runways limit what flight routes can be serviced, while congestion at O'Hare International Airport makes it difficult for a small airline to operate enough flights there to be profitable.
``Obviously we can't support a new airport on our own, but my feeling is if another airport were built in Chicago, the Chicago market is big enough to support another facility,'' he said.