Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD) is flying high as it announces an important milestone in its history. The airport is celebrating 10 years since the return of passenger service in 2003.
For the nearly 1.8 million fliers that have passed through RFD’s gates over the past 10 years, it’s hard to imagine a time when passenger service wasn’t an option. But back in 2001, commuter flights were grounded. The outlook for the Airport was bleak until May of 2003 when the community flew into action with a grassroots fundraising effort to bring back passenger service.
Dollar by dollar, more than 4,500 people of Northern Illinois, including contributions from 430 businesses, raised $272,000 on behalf of RFD. The twenty day effort was enough to prove to TransMeridian Airlines that Rockford was worth the risk. In August 2003, flights took-off to and from Las Vegas and Orlando. International flights to Cancun followed shortly after in 2005.
“The one thing you can say about Rockford is that we fight for what we want,” said Mike Dunn, RFD Executive Director. “This community sees the value in having a bustling airport and that widespread support is exactly what the airlines are looking for. They want to know that if they put a plane here and schedule flights, that tickets will sell.”
Selling tickets has not been a problem. In fact, RFD has consistently broken its own passenger numbers. In March 2013, RFD had its highest month on record with 35,453 passengers boarding flights. Demand for flights has brought in new airlines and new destinations. Over the past decade, RFD has been served by 12 airlines and flown to more than 19 leisure destinations, including five international locations.
“It has been exciting to witness the growth of RFD,” said Dunn. “In 2014, we’re on pace to surpass two million passengers. We continue to explore value added services to our passengers and new destinations.”
The economic impact of the airport has been impressive as well. RFD’s air service has brought in more than $60 million in federal and state investment grants, representing a $300 million economic impact on the Rock River Valley region. Additionally, RFD has a direct impact on approximately 5,200 jobs, which is an increase of about 1,300 jobs in the past 10 years.
RFD attributes its success to the ease of the travel experience it provides.
“Our philosophy is that your vacation should start as soon as you arrive at the airport,” Dunn said. “We’re proud of the experience we provide, but don’t take our word for it. Our customers are singing our praises.”
Satisfied travelers are eager to share their experiences with RFD on social media. The following comments were recently posted to RFD’s Facebook page:
“Just got back from another great trip from RFD to PIE! Walked off the plane, bags were out in 5 minutes and on home we went. The counter staff for our outbound Allegiant flight last week was great. Thanks again RFD and Allegiant for making traveling so easy.” - Marla B., August 15
- “Love this airport!” - Diane C., August 12
- “Easy to get in and out, a joy it’s so close!” - Gordon S., May 10
- “I love RFD. It is so easy to get to and fly to Cancun and not have the hassle of O'Hare.” - Gloria B., May 10
RFD is celebrating its milestone with passengers on the August 29 flights to Tampa at 5:25 p.m. and Las Vegas at 8:05 p.m. These flights will be designated as official anniversary flights. The region is encouraged to share in the celebration by entering RFD’s “Social Summer Sweepstakes” promotion on Facebook. Trusted partner Allegiant Air, the nation’s most profitable airline as well as RFD’s largest airline provider, will give away two round trip tickets to any Allegiant destination from RFD including: Ft. Myers, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix and Tampa Bay.
RFD is served by three passenger airlines (Allegiant, Apple Vacations, and Frontier Airlines) and is the host to UPS’s second largest domestic sorting facility. RFD currently has flights to nine non-stop destinations including Cancun, Denver, Ft. Myers, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana and Tampa Bay. For more information on all flights, visit FlyRFD.com.