Tbnewswatch Local News
Thursday July 2 2015
4:07 AM EDT
2014-01-31 at 11:43

Chicago flight axed

By Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch.com

United Airlines has killed its direct flight between Thunder Bay and Chicago.

The move is effective on April 24.

Thunder Bay International Airport’s manager of business development did not give a reason for airline’s decision, which was the only regularly scheduled direct flight to the United States.

“Although we regret the cessation of any service, Thunder Bay’s connectivity to the United States continues to be well-served via either Winnipeg or Toronto by Air Canada, WestJet or Porter Airlines,” Ed Schmidtke said in a release issued on Friday.

The news comes on the heels of a record year for passengers traveling through the airport, a number that hit 779,000.

United’s first flight to Thunder Bay arrived on Feb. 14, 2013.

Schmidtke said it's been an interesting two weeks at the airport. 

"We've seen one carrier give the community a large vote of confidence by putting additional capacity into our market," he said, referencing Westjet's announcement of moving its Encore service to Thunder Bay. 

"And United, on the other hand, has decided to deploy their hardware elsewehre."

The move isn't surprising; it's part of the give and take of the industry, said Schmidtke. 

The airport authority will look at other opportunities for direct travel opportunities to the U.S. in the market, but for now Schmidtke said people will have to connect through Toronto or Winnipeg. 

City tourism manager Paul Pepe said he's not surprised, but disappointed, noting his department has put a lot of effort into promoting Thunder Bay in the Chicago market and the route in both communities. 

"We've just completed a major marketing event in Chicago centering around the air connectivity with United and we were planning some additional spring/summer programs to promote this route, with some significant municipal, regional and provincial resources behind it," Pepe said via email. 

He added while the route was a great way for Thunder Bay travelers to connect to the United States and beyond, he thought it was starting to gain fans south of the border too. 

"We know through our partners that U.S. travelers were beginning to use it and had anticpated that number to continue growing in 2014 based on the investments we've collectively made to promote it," Pepe said. "Attracting business travelers -- the bread and butter of most air carriers -- proved more difficult.

"It's a shame more regional travelers and visitors failed to support it." 

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mystified says:
It is to bad this flight was cancelled. I used it to get to Orlando and it was affordable and pretty fast change over.

What I don't understand is why some of you commenters post their opinions of other peoples post like they are scolding a child. Can't you just say you disagree instead of all the negativity, bullying and name calling?
2/2/2014 10:47:03 AM
Tbayhabs33 says:
Who caaares...you can fly to Las Vegas from Duluth for about 300$ return so it's cheaper then all of them, and anywhere else just drive to Minni where hotels are cheap and flights are cheaper. Way better options
2/2/2014 8:24:23 AM
bttnk says:
Who wants nearly 8 hours of driving to and from Duluth to save a few hundred dollars? Time is money and unless I'm saving $1500 (for my family), I'm not driving to Duluth of Minniapolis to catch a flight. The last thing I want to do after a weekend in Vegas is spend several hours on the road in the dead of winter.
2/3/2014 11:17:48 AM
Chaos says:
Wolfie: Your comparison is poor. Newfoundland is a province and wisconsin a state. My point is that pepe was "not surprised" (meaning he expected) the flight to be cancelled but still spent city $ on this? Do you think that is wise investment for 11 months? If you do you must work fore the city!!
2/1/2014 5:48:00 PM
Wolfie says:
Fair point about the city vs. province/state thing. Unfortunately the province's advertising is never going to help Thunder Bay because all of the power and pull is down south. Just look at the closure of the Northwestern Ontario border tourism offices for evidence of that. So this area has to do its own thing tourism-wise.

As for your second point, just because Pepe wasn't surprised in the end that the route folded doesn't mean that he never thought it would work. It could be that despite the city's best efforts in promotion, the route just didn't catch on, and Pepe likely had some evidence of this before the announcement. It doesn't mean that they went into it knowing that it would fail, and still through money at it. Big difference.
2/2/2014 9:33:23 AM
Chaos says:
So city is spending tax dollars to advertise Thunder Bay in Chicago? even though Pepe is not surprised it was cancelled? I thought it was upto united to do its own advertising? Does Chicago spend it's dollars promoting Thunder Bay? Talk about waste! Hey pepe don't forget New York, Los Angeles an Miami. Lol. highest taxes in ontario and climbing! Is that our advertising modo?

2/1/2014 10:02:53 AM
progress now says:
Interesting points.

I wonder how many city executives took trips to Chicago to establish, evaluate or monitor the campaign.

2/1/2014 2:02:42 PM
Wolfie says:
So you're saying that Thunder Bay spending tax money to advertise Thunder Bay in Chicago is the same Chicago spending its tax money to promote Thunder Bay?

That is a terrible comparison. The city is spending money to promote Thunder Bay in other places. Not to promote another place.

Chicago and other American cities do this too. On many occasions I've heard Illinois and Wisconsin tourism commercials on Thunder Bay radio and tv stations. Other places do this too. Have you not seen all of those Newfoundland commercials?

This city has enough issues without having to make them up.
2/1/2014 3:20:58 PM
PAgirl says:
Only a non-traveler wouldn't know that it's not about Chicago specifically, but about the use of it as a hub and connecting point to everywhere else. In which case, why would you even feel the need to comment or complain on something you know nothing about?
2/1/2014 9:28:11 AM
mystified says:
United started flying between Chicago and Thunder Bay when Cliffs' was pumping up the Ring of Fire.
2/1/2014 9:00:34 AM
BetterThunderBay says:
Sad to see it go. That flight was full most of the times I took it. I always search and go with the least expensive flight, and in my experience, it was much cheaper than flying a Canadian airline across the border. It also cut several hours off my total trip time! Cheaper and faster, what's not to like?

Also, I don't understand why some people think the city of Chicago is all that important in this conversation. The whole purpose of flying to Chicago is that it's a hub airport. You fly from Thunder Bay to Chicago, then Chicago to anywhere. For all the times I've been to Chicago, I've never left the airport, but it's usually only one hop away from where I'm headed.
2/1/2014 12:57:01 AM
ConsEng1 says:
Agree with BTB. Once to Vegas and once to Phoenix. Considerably cheaper than either WJ or AC and a single stop - so convenient. You don't have to spend your entire depart or return day travelling. I actually had time to play a round of golf in Phoenix on my return day. And the flights were very full. Am planning a trip to Orlando, Mar 4 to 10. UA $603, WJ $890, AC $757, for similar departure and return and single stops. It's definitely a no brainer.
2/1/2014 8:43:07 AM
jaxoon says:
Yes. Me too. I used the Chicago connection a lot over the last year for business & personal. I never left ORD either. It was usually full flights except for the last couple of months. However having only one flight a day really hurt them. Lots of us stopped using United because if the flights had issues, you had to wait a day or pay for the change.
2/1/2014 9:56:56 AM
Watchful says:
Not surprised at all, unless business people were using it regularly, why would United waste their money
1/31/2014 10:06:23 PM
CM Punk says:
Unless you re going to see my Blackhawks at the United Centre, there is really no need for someone from TBay to come to the great city of Chicago.

It reminds me of Sesame Street, one of these things doesn't belong here segment.

You wonder, there are those who have been on flights saying its full and the airport people saying it was not surprised. Mixed reasons here.
Pepe must really feel stupid promoting some kind of connection and now it has ceased to exist.

1/31/2014 5:40:47 PM
fastball says:
I certainly miss the Minneapolis connection. Too bad the United flight to Chicago was so expensive. It made no financial sense to get a flight out of O'Hare for the extra 500 or so dollars it cost to get there. On the other hand, United sure didn't try to promote the flight via seat sales or anything.
1/31/2014 5:22:39 PM
PAgirl says:
It didn't ADD $500 to a flight out of there, I flew United to Las Vegas through Chicago for about $500 return. I don't think it was a seat sale or anything either, just a regular flight booked a couple of weeks in advance. It was comparable to using Toronto as a hub, often cheaper.
2/1/2014 9:40:17 AM
Imagine says:
There must be more to this story as I've flown United many times and every flight was at capacity. It was certainly a nice choice to have when looking at flights.
1/31/2014 4:28:11 PM
Threefish says:
I flew down and back twice and found the same thing, the flights were packed both ways. Too bad it didn't last.
1/31/2014 6:52:10 PM
fairlane says:
"Well served to the US via Winnipeg and Toronto"? That makes me feel better. Sad to see it go but really...how many Chicago business folk do business up here? Not a lot.
1/31/2014 3:09:03 PM
The Beaver..... says:
It was ill conceived to begin with. What interest do we have in Chicago absolutely non. Outside of a few Snowbirds there was no load factor and that is what's all about. Minneapolis would have been a better connection for most of us by far. For Pepe to tell us it was starting to catch on with US travelers as well is a bit of a joke considering there no where to go and the Nipigon Bridge is not ready to attract the Americans to se this wonder of the North.
1/31/2014 2:40:23 PM
PAgirl says:
If we're just using it as a connection (which most people are) who care if it's Minneapolis or Chicago?

The couple times I was on the flight returning here, I saw plenty of Americans on it...for a variety of reasons. It is a sad mentality to think no one would ever come visit here or this area.
2/1/2014 9:36:07 AM
bttnk says:
This is no surprise. There simply isn't enough business travel to Chicago or the United States to make this a revenue generating route for United.
1/31/2014 2:36:14 PM
S Duncan says:
When this flight was introduced many here predicted it wouldn't last long. I guess they were right.
1/31/2014 2:17:53 PM
sd says:
Congratulation on making your first ever post which relates directly to the article, does not belittle someone, and is not inflammatory just for the sake of creating and argument.
1/31/2014 4:12:39 PM
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S Duncan says:
You mean like you just did?

Congratulations hypocrite.
1/31/2014 5:02:42 PM
sd says:
And there you are right back to your old ways.
Yes my comment was off topic, it belittled you, and was meant to be inflammatory towards you in an effort to make a point.
You have done it because you are a negative individual who hates everything and is opposed to everything.
1/31/2014 5:11:44 PM
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sd says:
I knew that would bring out the true you. Now all you have to do is admit to people your real name and stop posing as someone else. I am tired of having people question my comments on here thinking that your rhetoric is mine.
After extensive research I have proof that I am the only Scott Duncan in Thunder Bay. Change your username to something real.
1/31/2014 5:42:59 PM
Threefish says:
You need a life pal. The hours you spend on here are staggering.
1/31/2014 6:49:39 PM
rootbear says:
I have to kinda agree....
2/1/2014 11:04:44 AM
S Duncan says:
How I spend my time is my business. I appreciate your concern but you worry about you, and I'll worry about me.

sd, your posts are getting more and more ridiculous and embarrassing. You need to work on your extensive research because youre obviously overlooking one.

Perhaps if you're conducting extensive research and gathering imaginary proof of whatever youre yammering about it is in fact you who needs to get a life and not me?

All of you children should try and stick to the subject of the story or at least just let the adults have a reasonable discussion without your immature interjections.

2/1/2014 9:24:10 PM
jlynn says:
Honestly I am not surprised... But it does such that we don't really have any nonstop flights to US destinations (e.g., Florida) for good prices - A lot of people drive to Duluth and take advantage of cheap flights at that airport... Maybe Thunder Bay should consider expanding it's market and let traveling from our own city be worth the money in our pocket... Or maybe it will always be too hard to compete with low prices.
1/31/2014 2:06:14 PM
Papercut says:
There is an ECONOMIC reason for this.....obviously. If the flights are too expensive, people do not buy....free market takes care of itself.
1/31/2014 2:05:09 PM
RBosch says:
While the Airline and Thunder Bay Airport certainly do not owe the citizens of Thunder Bay an explanation for the cancellation, if just to shut idiots like Sanjum up. By the way Sanjum, not only are there airlines to permanently leave on, but there are also roads. Take your pick! Folks like you add absolutely nothing to our life and I find it unfathomable that you can attribute a decision by an American business as being Thunder Bay's fault. If costs were too high, please remeber that it was the Airline who set the price, not the city.
1/31/2014 2:03:48 PM
progress now says:
A lot of people were surprised at the introduction of the route in the first place. I have to admit it raised my eyebrows.

Pepe says he was promoting Thunder Bay in the Chicago market. Looks like Thunder Bay has a lot less wow power than the city hall communications group would have us believe - even as a connecting destination. The announcement a couple of days ago by Cliffs to shut down Thunder Bay and regional offices (and assets) probably hastened United's decision. Previous to this there was the possibility in people's minds Cliffs might come back.

I would like to know more about the nature and cost of the city's apparent ongoing marketing campaign in Chicago.

2/1/2014 10:36:50 AM
sanjum says:
Another reason to say "Thunder Bay sucks"
1/31/2014 1:05:58 PM
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glass half full says:
Well move away if it sucks so bad. Or speak up with "solutions" to make it a better place to live.

For the record Thunder Bay is a great place to live.

1/31/2014 1:15:10 PM
sanjum2 says:
Solutions: Open up your minds guys and see how the world is living just fishing, hunting, snow boarding and video gaming isn't life. I have lived in 20 different places and this is the worst. How many you have? I will definitely move when get a chance.
3/20/2015 10:14:56 AM
Slyder says:
Thunder Bay thinks you suck too. Please, just leave.
1/31/2014 1:27:47 PM
TBDR says:
This isn't about Thunder Bay, it's about business. The flights were kind of pricey. To the point where you could often fly to Chicago cheaper by going to Toronto first. Additionally, now that Westjet is expanding service here, it makes accessing Toronto easier, which again put United on the outside looking in.
1/31/2014 1:40:09 PM
Festus says:
When I looked it was around $20 more. but it would only take 1.5 hours instead of the 6hours to fly with Porter. Was looking at going to Chicago this summer using United. Oh well
2/1/2014 8:43:40 AM
localboy says:
That's a shame. O'Hare was a great hub to fly through.
1/31/2014 12:02:20 PM
Eastender says:
Well, they'll just have to re-instate that Chacago-T.Bay flight eventually. Once that event centre is built, why all those 'Mericans will be flying up here in droves to the great entertainment capital of the north. No?
2/2/2014 5:47:28 PM
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