SAVOY — When Willard Airport added United flights to Chicago last June, officials hoped they wouldn’t take away passengers from American. American Airlines’ load factor, which is roughly the percentage of seats filled on each flight from Willard, increased from 80.2 percent in 2016 to 81.5 last year.

“That’s good news because it means United did not take away from American’s performance,” said Gene Cossey, the airport’s executive director. “United is capturing lost passengers, or recovering leakage.

It’s mostly those people who otherwise had been driving somewhere else.” American did have about 3,500 fewer departing passengers in 2017, but Cossey said that was mostly due to it dropping a couple flights for a few months as it was having issues juggling planes and pilots.

Between June, when United Airlines began service at Willard, through the end of 2017, it carried 16,896 passengers out of the University of Illinois-owned airport. That drove the 12 percent increase in departing passengers at Willard last year and pushed it over the 100,000 mark for the first time since 2007.

United’s flights haven’t been as full as American’s, with load factors trending around 52 percent, Cossey said, and a peak in October at 75 percent. “It varied a bit, which is expected” for a recently added airline, Cossey said. Read more from…

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