Northern Illinois travelers increase usage of Mitchell

Passenger counts from south of the state line has nearly doubled since 2008

Planes on the runway at Mitchell International Airport. - Curtis Waltz (www.aerialscapes.com) photo.

While the number of travelers from Northern Illinois using General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee at least once per year has nearly doubled since 2008, usage of the airport by those living in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties lags well behind the rest of metro Milwaukee.

The findings are part of studies recently conducted by Probe Research Services, Inc. for the airport. The study found that 35 percent of travelers from the four northeastern Illinois counties bordering Wisconsin had used Mitchell at least once in the last year, an increase from 18 percent in 2008.

Planes on the runway at Mitchell International Airport. - Erol Reyal photo.
Planes on the runway at Mitchell International Airport. – Erol Reyal photo.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said the northern Illinois area is important for the airport because it is “a high-growth, high-travel area.”

“Our marketing efforts over many years have successfully communicated MKE’s advantages of convenience and efficiency, at just a 45-minute drive from the Lake Forest Oasis,” Abele said.

But the surveys also found a trend going in the other direction with lower usage by travelers from Racine, Kenosha and Walworth counties. The survey found 53 percent had used Mitchell for business travel and 61 percent for personal travel.

In Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, Mitchell was used for 95 percent of business flights and 82 percent of personal flights.

Abele said that more residents using Mitchell for domestic and international trips is key to recruiting more nonstop air service to the area.

“We have stepped up our marketing outreach in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth, all robust and growing counties,” Abele said. “Some travelers may not realize that Southwest is now MKE’s largest airline, and that you can only find their flights on southwest.com, not on sites like Expedia and Travelocity. Others may think it is more efficient to fly from O’Hare, without considering traffic jams, tolls and O’Hare’s on-time departure rate of just 67 percent, worst in the nation in 2014.”

In addition to the surveys, the airport also released its 2015 Air Service Update. Mitchell had an on-time departure rate of 81 percent, according to the update.

The update also highlighted the change in market share at the airport. In 2011, AirTran led the way with 35 percent, followed by Frontier at 22 percent and Delta at 17 percent. The new leader, Southwest, was at 47 percent in 2014, compared to just 12 percent in 2011. Delta is now second at 24 percent, followed by American, 13 percent, United, 10 percent, and Frontier at 5 percent.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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