Flights from Purdue University to Chicago resuming in 2024

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The nation's first university-owned airport is set to return to commercial service early next year.

On Tuesday Purdue University and Surf Air Mobility, along with Southern Airways Express (SAE) announced they have entered into an agreement to provide air service between the university and Chicago O'Hare Airport with a target start date sometime in the spring of 2024.

"Purdue and the neighboring community are pleased to welcome SAE to the Purdue University Airport,” Purdue University President Mung Chiang said. “We could not do this without the outstanding support of Gov. Eric Holcomb, IEDC, the mayors of both Lafayette and West Lafayette, GLC, the FAA and countless others. With the economic growth momentum here, I know that Purdue faculty, staff, students and alumni will be thrilled for the university and local communities to once again have direct access to the global aviation network after 20 years without scheduled commercial airline service."

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation, along with Purdue, will provide funding to support the air service's establishment and ongoing costs of operations.

According to the university, Flight operations will be run by SAE, an airline subsidiary of Surf Air Mobility. SAE will operate flights between West Lafeyette (LAF) and O'Hare (ORD) seven days a week, with 24 weekly round-trip flights currently planned.

"Pending Board of Trustees approval in February, the new terminal will be named for Amelia Earhart, thanks to approval from the Earhart estate," the university said in a statement. "The approximately 8,000-square-foot facility — to be located west of the existing terminal — will include a waiting area, baggage claim, ticketing, passenger screening and public restrooms. It will be constructed to comply with Transportation Security Administration and FAA requirements."

Earhart was an instructor and advisor in careers for women and flew out of Purdue University Airport in the 1930s when I was opened.

SAE will operate the flights using Cessna Grand Caravan turboprop aircraft, with nine passenger seats and two pilots.

"This marks the return of commercial air service for the first time since 2004 to LAF, Indiana’s second-busiest airport in terms of total annual aircraft operations," the university stated.

The flights will be open to the public, and Purdue will provide the use of its passenger terminal, hangar space and ramp access for SAE's personnel. SAE will also offer job opportunities pre- and post-graduation for qualified students.

"The idea of having an airport here that can support a major carrier is absolutely phenomenal," said West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis. "It’s great on the social level, it’s great on the international level, and, obviously, it’s super great on the economic level.”

You can read the full press release here.

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