Private jet operations tick up at Chicago Executive, DuPage airports

  • A private jet taxis south of the control tower Friday morning at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling.

      A private jet taxis south of the control tower Friday morning at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • This is Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling. Officials there and at DuPage Airport in West Chicago say there has been a slight increase in private jet operations likely related to the coronavirus pandemic.

      This is Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling. Officials there and at DuPage Airport in West Chicago say there has been a slight increase in private jet operations likely related to the coronavirus pandemic. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/20/2020 4:48 PM

Private jet traffic has risen slightly at two suburban airports likely related to the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

Officials at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling started observing a bump in the jet traffic Tuesday. Co-owned by Prospect Heights and Wheeling, Chicago Executive is a top reliever for O'Hare International Airport.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It makes perfect sense that people would want to stay away from the large crowds of the commercial service airports and use an airport like this with their private aircraft," Executive Director Jamie Abbott said. "So, we think that (COVID-19) is the contributing factor."

Jet Linx, which flies from Chicago Executive, is appealing to what the company says are commercial air travelers seeking a private solution to help safeguard their health while wanting mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic.

President and CEO Jamie Walker said in a statement Jet Linx just started a special 90-day membership that includes guaranteed hourly rates and access for individuals and companies "searching for peace of mind if they need to travel during this national emergency."

At DuPage Airport in West Chicago, Executive Director Mark Doles said private jet operations ticked up this week, following a dip earlier in the month. DuPage also is a reliever and its total operations place it third in Illinois, behind Midway International Airport and O'Hare.

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"You at least know who your fellow passengers are," Doles said of private jets.

Doles said DuPage and Chicago Executive also likely have received general aviation flights that ordinarily would have used Midway International Airport this week. Midway's operations were significantly reduced after the control tower was closed for disinfection due to several technicians testing positive for COVID-19.

Abbott said managers of Signature Flight Support, Hawthorne Global Aviation and Atlantic Aviation -- known as fixed-base operators -- told him that they first noticed the slight operations increase last weekend. Signature, Hawthorne and Atlantic provide terminals for passengers and crew, baggage handling, fueling and other services for the private planes.

"We didn't know what to expect, but we're happy with the outcome so far," he said. "Time will tell, of course. Kind of our focus is to keep our operations and our folks healthy and strong and maintaining the airport. And so far, we're doing that."

An exact number of incoming and outgoing flights this week was not available from the airports.

Meanwhile, measures have been enacted by the airports and flight service companies to address the coronavirus threat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Doles said DuPage Airport has been following the coronavirus guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Passengers and crew are encouraged to board and exit planes with vehicles as close as possible.

"We're trying to limit our contact with them and vice versa," he said.

Located on the west side of Chicago Executive near Wolf Road, Atlantic Aviation has enhanced disinfectant cleaning at facilities nationwide, with special attention to public and employee community areas consistent with CDC standards.

"We understand that private travel is an essential engine of the economy and are doing all we can to ensure safe operations," Atlantic's statement reads.

Jet Linx this week announced it's the first and only private aviation operator applying ViaClean Technologies' BIOPROTECTUs System to disinfect and protect its fleet of 112 planes, private terminals and other facilities nationwide.

BIOPROTECTUs uses patented technologies registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to prevent the growth and spread of problematic bacteria, fungi, algae, mold and viruses while providing long-term antimicrobial protection for 90 days, according to ViaClean.

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