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More downstate flights to Chicago to start next year

More downstate flights to Chicago to start next year

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SPRINGFIELD - Air travelers in central and southern Illinois will have more options to get to the Windy City next year.

Daily flights to Chicago's Midway Airport will start in February from Decatur, Quincy and Marion. Air Midwest will offer three daily flights during the week and two on the weekend aboard Beech 1900 turboprop, 19-passenger planes.

This will mark the first Chicago flights from Quincy since 2003, from Decatur since 1999 and from Marion since 1986. The three currently have air service to St. Louis through a federal subsidy.

Local officials said they've worked for months on the details. They praised efforts of state lawmakers, business leaders and others in securing the new service, saying it will provide better access to their communities and spur business and tourism interest and growth.

"It now opens up a lot of opportunities for us," said Bill Clevenger of the Decatur Park District, which oversees the airport there. "It's another tool that helps the economic development in Decatur."

The new flights are being funded by $1.65 million state lawmakers provided earlier this year under the state's I-Fly incentive program. The program was created in 2003 to attract airlines to underserved airports but hasn't been funded until now.

Under the program, the state will provide grants to the airports, guaranteeing Air Midwest a certain amount of revenue for each flight. The airports are required to provide a 20 percent match of the money.

"Increasing travel options between Chicago and downstate communities will boost our case as we continue urging businesses to look at expanding and locating in Illinois," Gov. Rod Blagojevich said in a statement. "Having these options is good for business, it's good for families, and it's good for anyone traveling in Illinois."

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