Flying to All 50 States (and Earning Unlimited Free First Class Travel for a Year)

When United announced new Wilmington service earlier in the week I initially assumed they meant Wilmington, Delaware but it was actually Wilmington, North Carolina.

I think of service to Delaware as what an airline does when they want to be able to claim they serve all 50 states. There’s no current commercial service to Wilmington, Delaware’s airport.

The last major airline to offer service to New Castle Airport was Delta. They inaugurated CRJ regional jet service June 29, 2006 and ended it September 6, 2007. This allowed them to claim Delta as “the only airline to offer customers service to all 50 states” while in bankrutpcy.

United launched Wilmington, Delaware service in October 1984. Back then there were 2 million members of Mileage Plus (and the program name had a space between the two words then). They ran a promotion called “50 States in 50 Days” offering unlimited first class domestic travel for a year for those who completed the challenge.

Seventy eight people did it, including golfing great Craig Stadler who had won the Masters Tournament two years earlier. The group consisted of 69 men and 9 women, including one bright enough to buy a ‘Visit USA Pass’ for $860 in Hong Kong allowing unlimited domestic travel on United. Another sent postcards to United from every state as extra proof they had been there.

Every day mileage runners did straight turns off of United’s Boeing 727 flying Denver – Casper, Wyoming.

United ended its service to Wilmington, Delaware in 1991. Shuttle America served the airport for about a year and a half between 1998 and 2000. SkyBus briefly served the airport in 2008. Frontier then served it from 2013 to early 2015. There has been no commercial service since.

That’s why this project is just cute.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is the definition of a “pork” project. Good to see the D’s I’m Delaware got this runway extension…great use of taxpayer $$$ at such a well traveled airport serving so many people

  2. United still does service Wilmington- sorta. ZWI to Amtrak Wilmington train station from EWR.

  3. I earned my pilot’s license at ILG. There’s regular corporate traffic, frequent Air Force Two operations for 8 years, it’s home of the Delaware ANG’s C-130s, and it’s a nice divert option for PHL with precision approaches.

    Stan’s comment is interesting. Guess he’s frowns on the FAA making investments in improving our nation’s NAS and ground facilities because he believes it’s a huge pork project driven by Delaware’s powerful coalition of three congressional representatives who twisted arms to secure a monster $5.4MM win. (rolls eyes)

  4. Just by coincidence, I just arrived in Wilmington, Delaware. It was a $42 Uber ride that took about 25 minutes from PHL. Its a great little city but clearly doesn’t need government subsidized commercial air service.

    As an Atlantan,, home to the busiest airport in the world, I am envious of Wilmington’s train station. It puts our’s to shame even though Atlanta was born because of the railroad.

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