For the first time in 20 years, commercial air service will return to the West Lafayette/Purdue University Airport next year, the university announced Friday.
Purdue is partnering with Los Angeles-based Surf Air Mobility Inc. to begin scheduled commuter air service between West Lafayette and O’Hare International Airport in Chicago in early second quarter 2024.
Southern Airways Express, a subsidiary of Surf Air Mobility, will operate flights between the Purdue Airport and O’Hare, which will take place seven days a week, with 24 weekly round-trip flights currently planned.
Rob Wynkoop, vice president for administrative operations at Purdue, called the announcement a win for all residents in the greater Lafayette area.
“No longer will we have to deal with the uncertainty of the long drive to take advantage of all the flights and destinations that O’Hare has to offer,” Wynkoop said in a news release. “Passengers will save money and time while being able to support their local airport. With new airline service from Southern and the new passenger terminal coming next year, it is an exciting time for the Purdue University Airport. And more destinations are to come, we hope.”
The new flights will be open to the general public, and the airline plans to offer job opportunities for qualified Purdue students before and after graduation.
The new service is being funded by Purdue and the Indiana Economic Development Corp. The announcement comes as the university is planning to undergo construction of a new terminal and runway improvements at the airport.
The $11.8 million terminal project is slated to begin in May 2024 and take about a year to complete. The new terminal, to be located west of the existing terminal, will include restrooms, a waiting area, baggage claim, ticketing and passenger screening.
Purdue will also begin a $3.6 million runway rehabilitation project next May that will involve repaving one of the airport’s two runways, relocating a small connector taxiway and eliminating a second, unused taxiway. That project is expected to take about a month to complete.