September 9, 2013, Topeka, KS – The Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority (MTAA) and United Airlines, Inc. announced that an agreement has been signed for direct flights between Topeka Regional Airport (FOE) and Chicago (ORD).
ExpressJet will operate the United Express nonstop service using fifty-passenger regional jets for two departures and arrivals daily, seven days a week between Topeka and Chicago. Tickets are available for purchase immediately at www.united.com, with flights beginning in January 2014, subject to governmental approval. United Airlines will offer pricing comparable to other airports in this region.
The reasonably priced tickets, in addition to the convenience of close parking and less drive time, will make Topeka Regional Airport an attractive choice for Topeka-area travelers. Short-term parking is free, and long-term parking is only $5, regardless of the length of stay.
"We will absolutely be ready when the flights begin," said Eric Johnson, Airport President. "The terminal building has a new roof and is being renovated now, with fresh paint, upholstery, new carpet and ticket counters." A new section will soon be live on the MTAA website for
booking flights, a trip comparison calculator and other travel information.
"We are thrilled," said Mike Wilson, MTAA Board Chairman. "Having air service is not only a tremendous benefit to Topeka-area business and leisure travelers, but is also a significant boon to economic development efforts."
Numerous letters were written by Topeka-area employers to assist in bringing commercial air service to Topeka. The Topeka community will benefit from the ancillary economic impact in hotel, restaurant and other revenue that is otherwise diverted to other cites with airports when Topekans travel.
Market studies conducted in 2007 and 2013 by Sixel Consulting Group show that Topeka area residents generate nearly 1 million passenger trips each year. The goal is to meet the airline objective and to continue to grow future service. "Capturing three percent of the total passenger trips from the Topeka area travelers per year will make this endeavor successful," said Johnson.
A $1 million minimum revenue guarantee offered by the Kansas Department of Commerce helped to seal the deal. If Topeka does not deliver the anticipated minimum number of travelers per quarter, the revenue guarantee will make up the difference. This incentive will be in effect for the first two years of air service. In addition to the funds provided by the State of Kansas, the MTAA received a $950,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation through the Small Community Air Service Development Grant Program.
"We have been working diligently for a couple of years to bring commercial air service to Topeka," said Johnson. "It's quite gratifying to see it come to fruition. We believe Topekans deserve quality commercial air travel from their hometown."
In addition to efforts by the Kansas Department of Commerce, the MTAA Board of Directors credits a long list of partners in bringing United Airlines to Topeka including the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce, GO-Topeka Economic Partnership and the U.S. Department of Transportation Small Community Air Service Development Program.
The Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority provides safe, quality aviation facilities at the Topeka Regional Airport and Philip Billard Municipal Airport. The Topeka Regional Airport is home to the Kansas Air National Guard's 190th Air Refueling Wing and the 1st Battalion 108th Aviation Kansas Army National Guard. The MTAA also manages the Topeka Regional Business Center, offering office and warehouse space, as well as land available for new construction.