Flights between Port City, Windy City grounded; future up in the air

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Just six months after arriving at Wilmington International Airport, American Airlines is pulling out.

What went wrong? A few weeks ago hope soared that American Airlines filing for bankruptcy in November would not affect travelers at Wilmington International Airport.

But Tuesday night, airport leaders got the phone call.

“The bottom line is that the yield, which is the revenue they earn over expenses at each airport, our yield is not enough to sustain the service long term,” ILM Airport Authority Director Jon Rosborough said.

Simply put, American is not making enough money at ILM even though its non-stop flights to Chicago-O’Hare are, on average, 85-percent full.

News of losing the new airline does not sit well with some passengers.

“I’m very disappointed,” traveler Ken Brunson said. “I think the more airline accessibility we have the better. Competition is great.”

American Airlines will leave ILM April 2, but airport leaders say that may not be the last we see of American, or at the very least, non-stop flights to Chicago.

“They really liked the way our community served them and they’re sorry they can’t continue to serve it now, but they said, ‘Come back and talk to us once we get restructured,’ and I think that’s a very positive side,” Rosborough said.

Those talks could lead to American returning one day. How soon that may happen is up in the air.

In the meantime, because the Chicago route was so popular, Rosborough is going to approach US Airways and Delta to see if they are interested in it.

“I will keep going back to the other air carriers and say, ‘Look, we’ve had a good market going into chicago. The yield has been good, but when you compare it to expenses, American couldn’t make it under this yield, but I think you can,’ so we’re going to go back and sell that to the other carriers,” he said.

Rosborough says American Airlines is honoring all tickets. If you booked a flight on American that is scheduled to leave Wilmington after April 2, call the airline to get it sorted out.

Despite American’s issues, one small business at ILM seems to be doing well. In fact, upgrades are underway.

Tailwinds Restaurant first came to Wilmington International in 2005. Now the time has come for a few changes.

Monday night, crews started repainting the restaurant, adding new digital menu boards and new cooking equipment that will help speed up service speed.

The business has also expanded to five other small airports across the nation.

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