Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Eagle has landed: Airport welcomes new airline

WATERLOO, Iowa --- A crowd that gathered to greet the first American Airlines flight from Chicago to Waterloo Tuesday got a bonus thrill when the flight landed.

Among the first of about 25 passengers they watched stroll through Gate 1 in the terminal at Waterloo Regional Airport were former University of Northern Iowa and three-time Super Bowl quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife, Brenda.

It was pure happenstance, Warner said, when informed he was on the inaugural flight between Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Waterloo.

“I did not know that until we got on that flight,” said Warner, who had returned to the Cedar Valley for a family funeral. “It was just one of those unexpected things.”

Representatives from the local business and political establishments were on hand to present certificates to arriving passengers.

The flight was supposed to be greeted by twin water cannons as it approached the terminal, but that didn’t happen because the plane landed about 15 minutes ahead of its scheduled 3:33 p.m. arrival.

So went the start of the newest arrangement between the Cedar Valley and a new airline.

American replaced Delta Airlines, whose last flight from Waterloo to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport departed Monday afternoon.

“It’s sort of a bittersweet day because Delta and, previously, Northwest, had been serving the Cedar Valley for many years and they were a great partner,” said Brad Hagen, the airport’s general manager. “On the other hand, we’re excited to see American come in, and we think they have some advantages that Delta didn’t.”

Dale Morris, regional director with Dallas-based American, said the airline is looking ahead to more than serving the community.

“We’re going to be part of this community,” he said. “We’re going to be at some business after-hours expos to talk about the service to promote it.”

A less-than-full flight for the first arrival came as no surprise, Hagen said.

The community wants to build its new relationship, Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark said.

“We’re looking forward to the promises they have made to be competitive in this market and to be a part of the community,” he said. “Chicago has so much more connectability than Minneapolis does, and we’re looking forward to that, and we’re hoping when the dust settles from this and we’ve got American here, American will follow through with what they have said they will do, which is have competitive fares and better, at times, to have some fare sales.”

Starting today, daily Waterloo-to-Chicago flights are scheduled at 6:40 a.m. and 4 p.m., with return flights scheduled to arrive at 3:33 and 8:25 p.m.

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