The first plane to leave Joplin for Chicago on Thursday carried 44 passengers — a full flight.
That was a great beginning.
City leaders and airport officials have been working for years to add a Chicago flight to Joplin, and on Thursday, it happened when the first American Airlines flight from O'Hare International Airport arrived and then departed with those 44. There will be two outbound and inbound flights daily, except Saturdays, when there will be just one.
Airport manager Steve Stockam and others involved in the effort are to be commended for their persistence in making this happen.
This is the second Joplin connection to a major airport — the first being Dallas — and airport officials estimate American may serve as many as 48,000 passengers a year to and from Chicago.
It's not all blue skies just yet.
Joplin has provided a revenue guarantee, offering to underwrite flights for the first year if passenger counts aren't as high as projected and ticket revenue and other costs don't meet the airline's goals. The city is on the hook for up to $400,000, with half of that coming from city's transportation sales tax and the other half coming from the Convention and Visitors Bureau, if needed. Another $200,000 revenue guarantee has been provided by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.
In other words, Joplin, it's up to us to use this service, and if we do, neither the city nor the chamber will have to ante up anything.
When you factor in the cost of driving to other nearby airports, the cost of parking and the time that is lost, we think the Joplin-to-Chicago connection will prove a good deal, and the new connection will be a success.
"This is huge," chamber president Toby Teeter said Thursday.
We agree. This is huge. And this is great for Joplin.