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New updates to Willard Airport expected in 2023


A sign at the front entrance of Willard Airport in Savoy, Illinois, welcomes visitors on Feb. 4. Airport Executive Director Tim Bannon said airport renovations including increased flights and larger aircrafts are expected to start within the next year. By Elissa Eaton

SAVOY – Executive Director of Willard Airport Tim Bannon appeared at last week’s Urbana City Council meeting to share an update about renovations happening to Willard Airport in Savoy, which he said are expected to be completed within the next year.

Some of the updates, which are already in effect, include larger aircrafts, more frequent flights and first-class seating options. 

These updates are coming as Willard and other regional airports are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, Bannon said. 

“We are still in a COVID-19 hangover regarding transportation overall in the United States, but especially at smaller regional airports,” Bannon said. “We are down 37% in overall seats available.” 

Although Willard still faces fewer flights and seating than its pre-pandemic levels, its numbers are slowly starting to rise again as the airport increases the size of its aircrafts from 50 to 76 seats. 

The new planes, Embraer 175s, also include first-class service. Bannon said this is the first time that dual-class service has been offered at Willard,. Bannon said. 

One of Willard’s is to have more passengers departing from the airport for connections instead of having to drive to larger airports for connections, he said. 

“What we're trying to do is continually grow our flights so that more people connect through Willard Airport and depart from Willard, instead of driving to their first connection and up to O'Hare,” Bannon said.

At the end of his presentation to the city council, Bannon proposed some long-term projects, including rehabilitating the runways and taxiways.

“The airport is a constant work in progress,” Bannon said. “As our facilities age, we have to invest into the physical infrastructure that makes it all possible.” 

Travelers at the airport say they’d be happy to see improvements at the airport.

On Feb. 4, Sam James, an Urbana resident who often flies through Willard Airport, said he prefers using it for flight connections compared to driving. 

“I like flying instead of having to drive up to O’Hare,” James said. “It’s much better than the drive and having to park at O’Hare, so I like this airport. I think expanding it would be a good idea.”