ROCKFORD (RFD) -- Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD) will add, for the first time, transatlantic flights this month, adding low-cost service to the capital cities of Croatia and Serbia on June 17. That will give RFD service to nine world-class destinations, including three international ones.
Air Plus, a public charter company based in Chicago, will offer the once-weekly flights nonstop to Zagreb, Croatia, with continuing service on to Belgrade, Serbia. Flights will depart RFD Friday evenings and return Sunday afternoons. Flights are public charters on Boeing 767s operated by Swift Air. Flights can be booked at flyairplus.com or by calling 877-849-5002.
These will be the first nonstop flights to Zagreb from the Chicago area in nearly two decades, said Dusan Milicevic, general manager of Air Plus. Flights will appeal to the large Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian communities in Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and St. Louis, as well as European travelers looking for good deals. These flights will be offered for 13 weeks and already approximately 2,000 seats of the 3,000 total seats have been sold.
“RFD is perfectly situated between the major cities of the Midwest. Our customers will find unrivaled convenience driving to Rockford, parking for free and heading to southeastern Europe,” said Milicevic. “Arriving in the United States from Europe, they will see much shorter lines clearing U.S. Customs and an overall hassle-free experience.”
Milicevic said there is high demand for travel between the Midwest and southeastern Europe, especially during these summer months, and a large network of travel agents who cater to that demand. Air Plus also offers tours of Serbia, Croatia and nearby countries. Also, Zagreb and Belgrade offer convenient starting points for other European vacations.
“This is the first time in RFD’s history that we are providing scheduled transatlantic service and it demonstrates the capabilities we have to service Europe and further drive attention and visibility to additional airlines to our airport for future opportunities,” said Bharat Puri, chairman of the Greater Rockford Airport Authority board of commissioners.
“This is what we envisioned several years ago when we worked so hard to convince the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to open an international terminal at Rockford. We discussed this potential for international charter flights with House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) when I brought him to Rockford last month, and I’m excited to see it coming to fruition so quickly,” Congressman
Don Manzullo (R-IL) said. “I congratulate Bharat Puri and the rest of the airport authority board for their efforts to land our first ever scheduled transatlantic flight. When the international travelers see how easy it is to get in and out of Rockford, they will no doubt demand more overseas flights.”
“This announcement shows that the Chicago Rockford International Airport has become one of the region’s premiere airports,” said Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). “Its modernization and growth over the years has been impressive and I hope today’s service announcement is followed many more.”
Desko Nikitovic, the Serbian Consulate General in Chicago will be on the first flight on June 17. “The Consulate General strives to promote the development of mutual cooperation between the United States and the Republic of Serbia, particularly through culture and tourism,” said Nikitovic. “This is a very positive development for both our countries and the Serbian Consulate General is very supportive of this initiative.”
This new service gives RFD flights to three international destinations. Apple Vacations is finishing up a successful season of flights to Cancun, Mexico, and had expanded service to three times a weak during peak times. Besides free parking and short security and Customs lines, RFD offers a newly expanded International Arrival Gate that welcomes international travelers in style. RFD is conveniently located near Interstates 39, 43, 88 and 90, giving travelers a congestion-free start to their vacations.
“As our popular Cancun service has shown, people will drive from several hours away to take advantage of our direct flights, free parking and hassle-free experience,” said Puri. “Service to Zagreb and Belgrade is the next step in showcasing this international-grade airport. We look forward to welcoming our new passengers from both the U.S. and southeastern Europe.”
Puri said the new flights fit in with RFD’s vision of adding low-cost service to unique markets to take advantage of both the airport’s International Arrival Gate and convenient location. Puri said RFD can be an excellent gateway to the U.S. for European tour operators, as well as the starting point for many Midwesterners’ vacations.
“Just as passenger have learned that RFD is less expensive and more convenient than the congested airports in the region, airlines and travel companies are learning the same,” Puri said. “As RFD grows, we expect to see our partners grow as well.”