Viewpoint: Rockford to lose one Detroit flight

Viewpoint: Rockford to lose one Detroit flight

By Joe Baker

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

Fact: Northwest AirLink will drop its 1 p.m. flight from the Greater Rockford Airport to Detroit in April.

There also is speculation that Northwest may pull out of Rockford altogether. That would leave Greater Rockford Airport without any passenger service.

Elizabeth Costello, spokeswoman for AirLink, confirmed that as of April 1, Rockford-to-Detroit service will be trimmed by one flight.

Costello said the decision was made because of a decrease in passenger volume and because projections of future ridership were low.

She denied Northwest has any intention of dropping service to Rockford totally. “At this time, they (AirLink) are planning on staying in that market,” she said. She would not comment on whether a re-evaluation will be made later on.

If that happens, your only option, if you want to fly from Rockford, is to get yourself a big box with some holes in it and book a flight with UPS.

Against that dreary scenario comes word that airport Director James Loomis has received another pay raise. The question is, for what? What has he done to earn it?

Have you ever seen or heard one ad for Northwest Airlink’s flights in any of the local or regional media? Passenger marketing does not exist at the Greater UPS… er… Rockford Airport.

There is little or no evidence of any airline showing the slightest interest in Greater Rockford Airport. That’s largely because no one–not Loomis, not the Chamber of Commerce, not the Council of 100 or any business/industrial group–is taking any kind of effort to turn this picture around.

Right now, the opportunity is golden. Chicago is growing increasingly frustrated at the congestion and delays at O’Hare. Then there is the factionalism pushing Gary and Peotone. At the same time, Milwaukee’s Mitchell Field is trying to claim the mantle of Chicago’s third airport.

And here we sit. Rewarding inactivity and the good ol’ boys and running the airport into the ground. We’ve had two small businesses at the field fold because of inactivity there.

The window of opportunity will not be

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open much longer. Nature abhors a vacuum. Someone will fill it. Either it will be us, or it will be some other facility.

We have a fully equipped airport ready for use, but Rockford is not promoting it. Chicago doesn’t see it. Unless we begin supporting it and pushing for airline service, Greater Rockford Airport will be less busy than Cottonwood Airport, except for cargo flights.

On top of that, we get to support the high-on-the-hog style of Loomis and the airport board through our taxes. Isn’t it fun feeding a white elephant?

At the same time, employees have been laid off, and others have had to sue in an effort to be properly paid. When Fred Ford was here, he said this airport should not be tax-supported, and he intended to take it off the tax rolls as soon as possible.

We no longer hear that kind of statement. The approach today seems to be: “Let’s squeeze everybody for everything we can get. We’re keeping this airport for cargo, and passengers can keep out.”

Why? Because Chicago Mayor Daley does not want competition for O’Hare and its sister port in Gary. Don’t forget that Gov. George Ryan doesn’t want any competition for his pie-in-the-sky Peotone project, either. So much for our local Democratic and Republican leaders’ backbones and loyalty.

Our airport is becoming such a secret to passengers, maybe we should rename it Mena, and start smuggling drugs out of it so somebody can make money. Now that’s what you call cargo!

Seriously, what does the Greater Rockford Airport Authority Board do? They and Director Loomis must produce results, now!

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