PEORIA — The jets ferrying passengers from Peoria to Charlotte, N.C., will increase seating capacity beginning in February, indicating airline confidence in the market, the Peoria airport director said Friday.

The three daily flights operated by American Airlines affiliates will each be able to hold about 15 additional passengers with the same number of crew members as approximately 65-seat jets replace 50-seat aircraft, said Gene Olson, director of Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport.

"The biggest significance for us is, it shows American has confidence in that route. They're adding capacity to it to see if they can fill it," Olson said. "In a time when you have rising fuel costs, it's good to see an airline increasing the size of the aircraft because it means you're not in danger of losing the flights."

The increase, however, should not be viewed as a reason to take the flights for granted, Olson cautioned. If the additional seating capacity is not consistently filled, the airline could decide to reduce the size of the jets — and if other 50-seat aircraft can't be sourced, the flights could be eliminated altogether.

Delta carriers decided to do just that with direct-to-Detroit flights earlier this year. Those daily flights from Peoria to Detroit are still operating but will be discontinued at the end of November.

American has substituted larger jets for other Peoria flights, as well. The 50-seat aircraft carrying passengers three times a day from Peoria to Dallas were replaced in 2017 with two daily flights on 76-seat jets, which essentially kept the capacity flat but raised ticket revenue by offering first-class seating.

 

Matt Buedel can be reached at 686-3154 or mbuedel@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @JournoBuedel.