Saturday, November 02, 2013

United Airlines to provide direct flights to Chicago from University Park Airport (KUNV), State College, Pennsylvania

Photo Credit:   Kathryn

“We are always working towards new air service. And we have high hopes that by next fall, United will add a third direct flight to Chicago.” 

  –James Meyer, Director, Centre County Airport Authority


STATE COLLEGE, PA – United Airlines has announced that it will begin regularly scheduled flights to Chicago from University Park Airport beginning on January 7, 2014.  The service will be provided by ExpressJet Airlines, and use 50-seat regional jet aircraft.

“We are thrilled with the addition of this new service,” said Bryan Rodgers, director of the University Park Airport. “United is convinced that this new service will work and they want it to last.”

“Airlines have limited resources, and they want to make the most of them,” stated James Meyer, director of the Centre County Airport Authority.  “United initiated the conversation about the new service and we were invited to go to Chicago to discuss it at their (corporate) headquarters. They had already looked us over and had an interest.”

When businesses are asked about locating in an area, one of the top considerations is access to a full service commercial airport.

In an economic impact study conducted by Wilbur Smith Associates,  the University Park Airport has a major economic impact on central Pennsylvania.  It is directly responsible for nearly 3,000 jobs with a payroll in excess of $80 million.

“The University Park Airport has a total estimated annual economic impact of $203.8 million,” said Rodgers. It serves approximately 280,000 total passengers annually with three airlines (Delta, United, and US Airways) who offer daily regularly scheduled flights to and from three major hub cities (Detroit, Washington/Dulles and Philadelphia).”

The airport has approximately 64 based aircraft, including Geisinger Life Flight, corporate and recreational aircraft. The airport regularly handles aircraft ranging in size from small single-engine to Boeing 737/757s as well as military aircraft including Blackhawks, Chinooks and Apaches.

Both Meyer and Rodgers spend considerable time and energy on attracting new airlines and new flights and services to University Park.  “We are always working towards new air service,” said Meyer. “And we have high hopes that by next fall, United will add a third direct flight to Chicago. This is our first new service since the Atlanta service in 2007.” That service lasted less than a year due to challenging economic conditions and the merger of Delta and Northwest.

The new Chicago service fits nicely into United’s current service to Washington, D.C.’s Dulles Airport. It will allow easier access to international travel. Airlines most profitable ticketing comes in international service.

One big plus of the new service is the impact it will have on the business community in the region extending from Williamsport to Altoona and DuBois.

“We reached out to the business community to determine the level of interest in service to Chicago,” said Rodgers. “Many local businesses are supportive of the new service and will use it.” Rogers has also worked with the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County to bring awareness of the airport’s economic impact on the region.

Penn State’s transportation needs will undoubtedly drive the success of the new service. First, there is the large international student population. In fact, the highest percentage of international students – by far – travel to Shanghai, China. Nearly 40 percent of international students are Chinese.

In addition, Big Ten travel for athletics and academic meetings will be made far more convenient with the addition of the new Chicago service.

According to a report prepared for United, Chicago is already the third most traveled-to domestic market for University Park Airport passengers, behind Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles.

In international travel, the top-ranked market served is Shanghai, China, followed by London, UK, Seoul, South Korea, and Beijing, China.

Flights to Chicago will make connections to Houston easier. That, in turn, will make it more convenient for the Marcellus natural gas industry to conduct business in Pennsylvania. Houston is the location of many shale gas and oil company headquarters.


Photo Courtesy: Kathryn

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