The federal Department of Transportation announced Friday it has selected SkyWest/United to provide air service in Salina, with a likely stop in Hays for Chicago-bound flights.

Details have not been released regarding flight schedules and when Hays passengers could begin booking service to Illinois, but the news brings the city one step closer to announcing flights to Chicago, Assistant City Manager Jacob Wood said Friday.

“We still don’t know what the flight schedule will look like or what the timeline will be for any implementation, but it does include a Chicago flight and Hays would be part of all that,” Wood said. “We just don’t know exactly when it’s all going to happen and what flights are going to look like.”

SkyWest/United currently provides the city a round-trip jet service to Denver.

The Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau, with support from the Hays City Commission, Ellis County Commission and other community businesses, drafted a proposal for up-line scheduling that would offer a continuous flight between Hays, Salina and Chicago.

City officials have expressed support for the future Chicago flight, noting residents long have been asking for an eastbound connection.

"I think it's a positive thing," Wood said. "We're one step closer."

The Salina airport currently is served by Great Lakes Airlines, Hays’ former air service provider, also with service only to Denver. SkyWest is expected to begin serving Salina in April, according to the Salina Journal.

The Essential Air Service contracts are renewed every two years through the federal government. The City of Hays’ contract with SkyWest continues through 2018, though Wood said he does not foresee a change in air service providers in the near future.