From South Bend to Indy; Direct flights would run on weekdays, weekends.

SOUTH BEND -- The airport will soon offer direct flights to Indianapolis if a plan in the works receives final approval, officials announced Thursday.

Under the plan, South Bend Regional Airport would offer five one-way flights on each business day, as well as some weekend flights, said John Schalliol, the airport's executive director. Flights would initially cost about $100.

Officials said the plan could allow the airport to tap into what is a potentially growing market.

"You hop on board, you get to Indy, you do what you need to do there," Schalliol said. "I just think there's real potential in the future to make this a real viable alternative to driving your car down to Indy.

"A lot of people won't do it initially," Schalliol said, "but I think over time they'll try it. And if they have a good experience, they'll come back."

The airport briefly offered flights to Indianapolis in 2005 before an airline bankruptcy curtailed the arrangement, Schalliol said.

Although he conceded officials don't know how much demand they'll see, Schalliol said he believes the Indianapolis flights would be attractive both to business commuters headed to meetings there and to air travelers from this area who are planning to fly out of Indianapolis.

The Airport Authority board on Thursday approved the plan, pending legal review. Cape Air, the company that would provide the flights, still must approve the arrangement, as must the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The arrangement also would include the Evansville airport, which also would offer direct flights to and from Indianapolis, Schalliol said.

It would begin Oct. 31 and initially last for seven months, Schalliol said. Cape Air would offer flights on Cessna planes that could carry up to nine passengers, and each flight would take about an hour.

If the arrangement is approved and becomes popular, Schalliol said, he expects that other airports across the state might eventually join, along with some airports in Ohio and Illinois.

Staff writer Joshua Stowe:

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