- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) - Administrators at Southern Illinois University have spent more than $180,000 on in-house chartered airplane flights over the past two years, according to data from the school’s department that operates the service out of Southern Illinois Airport.

The two school-owned planes available for business use have shuttled staff members on more than 130 flights since July 1, 2013, the data provided by the university’s Department of Aviation Management and Flight showed. The twin-engine planes were destined for locations as close as Springfield and as far away as Houston, Texas.

The average cost of a round-trip flight was about $1,400, Southern Illinoisan (http://bit.ly/1MuvtAV ) reported.

Administrators try to balance potential time savings and operation costs when deciding whether or not to use the service, said Southern Illinois University spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith.

“We encourage people to use the least expensive way possible,” she said. “Sometimes this is the least expensive way, and other times it’s the most prudent way given the goal of the visit and other things on the schedule.”

The service can save money on hotels and airline fees when multiple staff members are heading to the same location, Goldsmith said.

Springfield, located about 160 miles from Carbondale, was the most common destination of the 24 listed in the documents. More than half of the trips included a stop at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield.

Southern Illinois University’s School of Medicine, based in Springfield, used the service most frequently with 57 flights. Employees in former Chancellor Rita Cheng’s office boarded the school’s planes 23 times during the 2013-14 school year. Southern Illinois University system President Randy Dunn and his office’s staff members have used the service 11 times since he assumed the role last year.

Flight information from July 2014 and June 2015 wasn’t included in the data.

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Information from: Southern Illinoisan, http://www.southernillinoisan.com

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