Efforts to relieve the burden on Logan Airport through regionalization took a big step forward today when American Eagle Airlines announced that it will start non-stop jet service between Worcester and Chicago O’Hare beginning July 1, 2001. American Eagle will offer two daily round-trip flights with 37-seat Embraer-135 regional jets. The new flights will be the only non-stop service between Worcester and the Chicago area and will allow Worcester passengers to connect at O’Hare to American’s more than 500 daily departures to 107 destinations. "This new American Eagle regional jet service to Chicago is great news. These flights will contribute greatly to the continued success of the Worcester Airport," Rep. Jim McGovern said. "Chicago is not only a desirable destination in its own right, it's also a major transfer point to locations across the country and around the world. I want to commend Massport and Senators Kennedy and Kerry for their continuing commitment to air travel access for Central Massachusetts residents." "Starting in July, travelers from Central Massachusetts will have an alternative to Logan when flying to Chicago for a business trip or a family vacation," said Massport CEO and Executive Director Virginia Buckingham. "Worcester’s second busiest market is to Chicago, so this goes a long way towards reducing dependence on Logan Airport and spreading air traffic throughout New England." Massport took over operation of Worcester Regional Airport on January 15, 2000 under an agreement aimed at reviving the underutilized facility. The authority is marketing the regional airport and meeting with the representatives of airlines operating out of Logan to highlight Worcester Airport as an option. As a result of these efforts, the number of passengers using Worcester Regional Airport more than doubled during the one year Massport has been operating the airport for the City of Worcester. Massport has enticed three new airlines to begin using Worcester over the last year: Delta ASA, American Eagle and Pan Am. With this new service, the airport now has direct service to the Worcester region’s top four destinations: Orlando, Chicago, New York and Atlanta. Delta ASA is scheduled to begin a third daily flight to Atlanta in April and Pan Am will add on connecting service to San Juan in May. Current estimates are that with increased service and improved access, Worcester Airport can handle as many as 600,000-800,000 passengers per year. The revitalization of Worcester Airport is a key component of the state’s regional aviation strategy, which includes improving ground access to nearby Manchester Airport and T.F. Green in Providence, both among the fastest growing regional airports in the country.