Airline Industry Takes Hit From War

By: Nichole Vrsansky
By: Nichole Vrsansky

War in Iraq is having a grounding effect on the airline industry. Several top carriers are laying-off thousands of employees, and that may not mean good news for the Greater Rockford Airport.

Airlines around the world estimate the war in Iraq will cost them $10 billion in losses. So for the Greater Rockford Airport Authority this is just one more obstacle they'll have to face.

The war fires a shot directly at the airline industry. Continental, Northwest and United cut thousands of jobs and trim schedules. Not good news for anyone banking on the industries' expansion.

"It's probably a little more difficult to attract them immediately. A lot depends on how domestic travel really is affected by the war," said John Lewis, a consultant for the Greater Rockford Airport Authority.

"It makes our efforts a great deal harder. However, it does not make them out of reach," said the Director of the Greater Rockford Airport Authority Bob O'Brien.

O'Brien says he and his staff are talking with airlines everyday, finalizing numbers to make charter flights at the Rockford Airport permanent. Right now, O'Brien says the feedback is positive.

"Wait and see gets you nothing but what's left over. We need to get out and we need to make our own opportunities," said O'Brien.

The Airport Authority says their strategy is for the long run. So when war is over, they'll be ready for take off.

"War's not going to last forever and when it's over and travel gets back to normal. People are going to want to fly and Rockford is a great place to fly out of," says Lewis.

"As the saying goes challenges are merely opportunities in disguise. We will get this done," adds O'Brien.

Bob O'Brien will be celebrating his one-year anniversary with the Airport Authority. He says he's pleased with the progress he's made so far, but will not be completely satisfied until scheduled passenger service returns to the airport.


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