New air route will connect Waterloo Region to Chicago
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New air route will connect Waterloo Region to Chicago

American Eagle, the regional affiliate of American Airlines, will offer daily flights to Chicago from the Region of Waterloo International Airport starting next year.

The airline plans 13 roundtrip flights per week to O’Hare International Airport, one of its largest travel hubs, beginning June 14, 2012.

“We’re really thrilled that American has joined on with us here,” said regional Chair Ken Seiling at the official announcement Tuesday morning at the Breslau airport. “We see a lot of economic activity in this region that is supported by the airport, and businesses that use the airport in its operations around the world.”

CHICAGO-BOUND Brett Hooyerink of American Airlines is flanked by Region of Waterloo International Airport general manager Chris Wood (left) and regional Chair Ken Seiling (right) during Tuesday’s announcement the airline will offer twice-daily flights to Chicago starting next June.

The service will be operated by the ERJ-145 Embraer regional jets that seat 50 passengers. The partnership has been about two years in the making.

Airport general manager Chris Wood said he was contacted by the airline shortly after he assumed the position in 2009, as they were looking to secure more business in Waterloo’s booming technology sector.

The answer from those companies was clear, Wood revealed.

“They said ‘simple, put planes in Waterloo.’”

The airport is already home to three Canadian airlines – Bearskin, WestJet and Sunwing as well as Great Lakes Helicopter – and American will be the first carrier with U.S.-bound flights out of the Region of Waterloo since Northwest (now Delta) ended flights to Detroit in 2009.

“We’re very proud to become a part of the community and its great the way the community has welcomed us here,” said Dale Morris, managing director for state and community affairs with American, in an interview after the announcement.
“When it starts up we’re expecting great things.”

The partnership comes during a difficult time for American, whose parent company AMR Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 29 under Chapter 11 proceedings, and is currently undergoing restructuring in U.S. bankruptcy court.

Morris said that restructuring plan included looking at new routes, such as the one to Waterloo, and that the filing of Chapter 11 would have no impact on their decision to continue their partnership with the airport.

“It’s business as usual. We had this route projected even before we went into that mode. It won’t have any affect on it at all.”

Woolwich Mayor Todd Cowan admitted to having some reservations about the deal after the developments on Nov. 29, but said regional council and the township have been assured the agreement would continue as agreed.

“Initially I had some concerns, but Chris (Wood) has said that just because they have filed for bankruptcy doesn’t mean they’re going under, it’s merely a reorganization of the company,” Cowan said.

As for future plans, Morris couldn’t say whether or not the airline would expand upon its twice-daily route. He said the company has economic models that the market must reach first and that it would take some time for the market to dictate their future action.
“I think once the route gets going we’ll look at other options down the road but I think if it goes well it can lead to increased frequency.”

Flights from Waterloo to Chicago start June 14, 2012.

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