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Chicago flight axed

United Airlines has killed its direct flight between Thunder Bay and Chicago. The move is effective on April 24.

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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