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United Express service from Mason City to Chicago off to a good start

MASON CITY — It’s been a good first couple of weeks for the Mason City Municipal Airport’s new commercial air provider. The new United Airlines Express jet service operated by SkyWest started on  March 1st under the Essential Air Service program.

Manager David Sims says traffic at the airport has increased.  “We’re already seeing increases in passengers and our future bookings. Just as you drive into the airport, when I come in in the morning, I can already tell that the parking lot is filling back up, that’s something that’s been noticeable since the pandemic started a year ago. Just over this past weekend, we’ve carried more travelers with the spring break travel season going than we had been able to carry in the past with the capacity we had.”

Sims says the number of people flying out of the airport, which is the number the Essential Air Service funding is tied to, is substantially up when compared to previous months.  “We had 220 passengers fly out in just the first two weeks of this month versus 195 for the entire month of February, so we’ve already surpassed February’s numbers in the first two weeks. If this trend continues as I suspect it will, we should break 400 passengers flying out by the end of March, which is something we haven’t done since the pandemic first broke out last year. I’m hoping to see those numbers go up as the year goes on.”

Sims says the feedback from passengers has been good so far. “Most are glad to have more seats available, a bigger aircraft, the connections to United, just all the conveniences that having a service like United Airlines in Mason City brings to it.”

Sims says a study of airfares shows that it’s cheaper to fly United out of Mason City then having to drive to another major airport.  “We are very competitive with the major markets such as Des Moines and Minneapolis. Actually, we’re exactly on par with the fares coming out of Des Moines on average. Then you tack in the convenience of not having to drive. The free parking that we offer at the airport will actually save you quite a bit of money flying out of Mason City versus flying out of the Des Moines airport. One passenger I spoke with this weekend traveled here from Cedar Falls to fly out. He was a United Airlines frequent flyer, normally flew out of Cedar Rapids, but once he found out we had United service, he drove the 90 miles to fly out of here this weekend.”

SkyWest/United Express is offering 12 round-trip flights between Mason City and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport each week using a 50-seat jet. It’s the first time that Mason City has had commercial jet service since Delta’s departure in 2012.

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