SkyWest Operating United Express Flights at Illinois Airport

The name still is United Express. Flight schedules and aircraft remain the same. But a new company has begun operating the commuter service that accounts for about half of the passenger business at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.

"We're not changing our schedules or the cities that we service," United Airlines spokesman Jeff Green said Tuesday.

SkyWest was one of two regional partners selected by United Airlines to provide commuter connections after United chose not to renew an agreement with Air Wisconsin.

Green said the transition begun several months ago nationwide is nearly complete.

United Express flies 50-passenger regional jets on its Springfield route. St. Louis-based GoJet Airlines has taken over other Air Wisconsin routes.

SkyWest, based in St. George, Utah, serves 123 cities in the United States and Canada through partnerships with United Airlines and Delta Airlines. The airline carried 13.4 million passengers last year and had more than $1.1 billion in revenue.

Continuity on the United Express route has been particularly important to the Springfield airport after the loss early this year of Chicago Express ATA flights between Springfield and Midway Airport in Chicago.

The loss of ATA left Springfield with United Express to Chicago and AmericanConnection to St. Louis.

"It's the same schedule, the same airplanes," airport executive director Eric Frankl said of SkyWest.

Frankl said the airport board has been cautious this year about pursuing a third carrier because of the financial problems in the airlines industry. But he said he and another airport representative plan to attend a special meeting in Orlando, Fla. next month of airline and airport officials from around the country.

"It's kind of customized to airports of our size," Frankl said.

He said he does not expect to come back with a third carrier, but that the meeting would help airport officials gauge the market for expanded service. "We don't want to spend a lot of money on consulting and proposals for airlines we can't get," Frankl said.

Air Wisconsin took over from another carrier, Great Lakes Aviation, in 2001. Air Wisconsin spokeswoman Kelly Lanpheer said the company continues to provide some ground services for United Airlines and will continue air service in a few markets until April.

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