…for Peoria, Illinois – my hometown.
A regular commenter has accused me of “a lack of love for CIRA and Bloomington-Normal.” And he’s correct, but this blog is called “PeoriaStation” not “Bloomington-NormalStation.” I advocate PIA, not CIRA.
The issue is over my analysis (which goes back more than a year) that if American Eagle/American Connection decided to eliminate one of four central Illinois stations, Bloomington-Normal’s Central Illinois Regional Airport would get the short stick. Here’s my reasoning on that:
(1) Recall that in late 2000, American Eagle announced its intention to exit the CIRA-ORD market. This move came just after coverting all of its flights to regional jets. The airline was to have exited CIRA in January 2001, but due to political pressure, decided to stay. About the same time, AA and TWA announced their merger plans. Integration of the two carriers was sped up following 9/11 and the operational merger took place December 2001. But the airline industry was hit hard by 9/11 so service cutbacks were inevitable. AA could connect CIRA travelers via the ex-TWA St. Louis hub (via American Connection) and so it went ahead and dropped CIRA-ORD flights in November 2002. A year later, AA downsized its STL hub and resumed CIRA-ORD regional jet flights (remaining STL turboprop flights ended in late 2005).
(2) State Farm Insurance Co is said to be a huge generator of airline business travelers to regional offices in Atlanta, Tampa, Dallas, Phoenix, etc. I don’t doubt this, but American Eagle’s CIRA-DFW nonstop didn’t start because of State Farm. Instead it was because United Express announced July 3, 2008 that it would end all CIRA flights on November 2. On August 12, 2008 AE announced that a single daily CIRA-DFW nonstop would begin November 2. Coincidence? Nope.
(3) Four airports in the central Illinois region have nonstop DFW flights. This service developed after American Airlines downsized (and eventually closed) its ex-TWA St. Louis hub on November 1, 2003. Peoria’s would come first on July 15, 2004 (a year or so after United Express dropped PIA-DEN). Champaign-Urbana got its DFW nonstop second, on April 4, 2005 (probably in part because of the maintenance contractor located there).
(4) In April 2002, CIRA applied for Small Community Air Service Development (SCASD) funds to entice an airline to provide service to a western hub. Candidates to offer thus service, as stated in CIRA’s application, were Houston (Continental Express) and Denver (Frontier Jet Express). At the time, no central Illinois airport had DFW service. Apparently, CIRA officials didn’t see hope of getting any (State Farm employees probably used AirTran via Atlanta anyway). State Farm’s DFW-area presence is expected to grow considerably, but how this might generate more business travel from CIRA isn’t clear.
(5) State Farm business travel to the DFW area may not be as reliable for CIRA as one would think. For one thing, the Bloomington-based insurance company generates mainly domestic business travel. Passengers using AA’s DFW nonstop for travel to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area pay a premium for convenience. It is likely cheaper to fly CIRA-ORD-DFW. It’s even cheaper to drive to St. Louis and fly Southwest Airlines nonstop to Dallas-Love Field.
(6) Caterpillar generates considerable business travel out of its Peoria-area facilities. Much of this is to international markets (for which AA encourages making a DFW connection). Caterpillar has a number of manufacturing and distribution facilities in Texas: Denison (drills), Kilgore (rebuilt surface mining equipment), Waco (work tools, parts distribution and regional distribution center), Seguin (off-highway engines) and Victoria (hydraulic excavators), but also Mexico (Unit Rig truck plant in Acuna; steel fabrication and parts distribution at Monterrey, and offices in Mexico City) and Panama City. DFW is an excellent hub to use when traveling to these domestic and international points (not to mention numerous supplier facilities all over the southwest and Mexico). PIA has three DFW nonstops after all.
So tell me where I’m wrong. Let me have it
- David P. Jordan