Tuesday, January 31, 2012

United Airlines to double daily direct flights to Denver from Peoria

PEORIA — Travelers looking to fly west will have more options beginning in June.

United Airlines said it plans to double its daily direct flights to Denver from Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport, from one to two, to serve customer needs.

"United has seen a significant increase in customer interest in our flights to Denver," Martin Kammerman, United's senior manager of market analysis, said in a news release, "and the interest isn't just confined to Denver. Passengers are using the connections at Denver to get to the 120 cities that United serves such as Phoenix, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area."

The expanded service on United's regional affiliate, United Express, will begin June 2. Departing times from Peoria are scheduled to be at 8:15 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. aboard 50-seat jets.

Gene Olson, director of airports for the Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria, said 2012 is looking up for the Peoria airport.

"So far we've got Atlanta coming in April, and now the second Denver flight," Olson said. "We're still working with the business community, to listen to their needs and try and ease them."

The announced expansion comes just two months after Delta Airlines said it plans to restart its Peoria-to-Atlanta routes in April.

Olson said they have been meeting and working with United since last summer.

"The question at the time was whether they would bring a second flight or upgrade the size of the aircraft," Olson said, noting seats on the Denver route currently average 80 percent full.

Olson said the additional daily flight may have an impact on fare prices.

"Anytime you have an increase in supply of seats, the pressure is downward on price," he said, adding he hopes it strikes a balance between a lower cost for the consumer but one where the airline continues to profit, which means the flights will continue. "If it does not get used, it will go away."

United severed its Denver connection from Peoria in 2002, but relaunched it in 2007.

"What this really does is offer another chance to go west," Olson said.

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