Airline contract at Cape airport expires this year

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In 2006, the last year Cape Girardeau had reliable passenger air service for the entire year, 7,933 people flew out of Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

By the end of 2006, RegionsAir was flying four round-trip flights a day to St. Louis. So far this year, with Great Lakes Airlines providing two flights daily, 290 passengers had boarded through the end of May, airport manager Bruce Loy said.

Cape Girardeau receives subsidized passenger flights under the Essential Air Service program. The two-year contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation will expire Oct. 31, and making air service work locally will require better scheduling if St. Louis remains the destination, Loy said.

"First, we've got to have flights that get you there in time" to make connections, he said.

A decreasing number of direct flights from St. Louis to popular destinations means giving serious consideration to bidders who want to take people to another location, such as Memphis or Chicago, said Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Girardeau Area Magnet, the economic development cooperative.

Companies asking about sites to locate new facilities want good passenger service, Robinson said. "For those companies that are internationally owned, or internationally based, it is an important issue. If you are sending people in to check on a plant, they would like to be close to good flight service."

Since the end of 2006, passenger service for Cape Girardeau has been beset by problems that include RegionsAir being grounded over maintenance issues and another carrier, Big Sky Airlines, that went out of business less than a month after starting service.

Great Lakes won an emergency contract to serve Cape Girardeau, as well as Owensboro, Ky., and Jackson, Tenn. While Cape Girardeau has two of the three promised flights, Owensboro and Jackson have never received service. When their contracts were up again recently, eight companies bid for the service, up from two during the last round, said Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Cape Girardeau's contract will likely be offered sometime during the summer, Mosley said. The cities that will be included in the package with Cape Girardeau have not been determined, he said.

Loy, however, said he had been told that Cape Girardeau's contract would be offered as a package with Marion, Ill., Decatur, Ill., Burlington, Iowa, Quincy, Ill., and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

"It should be interesting to see what comes back," Loy said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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