New airline service to connect St. Cloud and Chicago

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Daily nonstop air service between St. Cloud and Chicago will begin this spring. The St. Cloud Times reports the twice-daily United flights to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport will be provided by Utah-based SkyWest Airlines and will begin on May 6.

The Star Tribune said that the twice-daily, seven-day-a-week flights to O’Hare will be aboard a 50-seat flights Bombardier CRJ 200 aircraft departing at 6 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. On Monday, United began listing availability of seats for a $206 round trip between the central Minnesota community and the Windy City.

The Business Journal notes that St. Cloud has been coveting a Chicago link for years. In 2006, up to six Mesaba Airlines commuter flights left the St. Cloud airport. But in the following years, air service to the Stearns County city has been spotty and for a while there were no regular commercial flights at all.

Delta stopped serving the airport after its acquisition of Northwest at the end of 2009. In 2012, Allegiant Air began providing weekly service to Mesa, Arizona, and added a route to Sanford, Florida, near Orlando a year later. Once the SkyWest flights begin, the airport will see 18 flights a week.

“This is the day a lot of us have been waiting for a very long time to see,” St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said. “A number of people have worked a long time to make this happen, and the city has been very committed to make it happen."

On Monday, Great Lakes Airlines announced it was ending air service to six small regional cities, including Thief River Falls in Minnesota. The airline also announced it would shutter its hub in Minneapolis. The airline blamed the cuts on a pilot shortage that has resulted from higher training requirements mandated by the federal government.

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