New air service arrives in Owensboro, Ky.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

OWENSBORO, Ky. -- A western Kentucky city is reconnected to the world with the start of new air service.

Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne said KentuckySkies' air service between Owensboro and Nashville, Tenn., comes at a good time for the city, the Messenger-Inquirer in Owensboro reported.

"We're retooling the city," he said. "This sends a signal that Owensboro is alive and aggressive."

The new airline, run by Hawaii-based Pacific Wings, will add flights through Nashville to Atlanta later this month. Flights to Atlanta will cost $87 each, said David Jones, the company's chief pilot. Flights to Nashville are $39.

The airline recently flew city and county officials from Owensboro to Nashville to meet with officials from Jackson, Tenn., which it also began serving last week -- as TennesseeSkies.

"These cities were invisible until this week," said Greg Kahlstorf, CEO of Pacific Wings, parent company of both KentuckySkies and TennesseeSkies. "Now, they're visible on every airline booking site. You can fly to Owensboro and Jackson from anywhere in the world."

Both cities had only had regularly scheduled commuter service for about six weeks in the nearly 30 months since the Federal Aviation Administration shut down RegionsAir in March 2007, the Owensboro newspaper reported.

RegionsAir had served the communities, along with Cape Girardeau, since 2001.

Big Sky Airlines took over the contracts from Thanksgiving week 2007 to Jan. 7, 2008. Great Lakes Airlines won the contract to serve the cities, including Cape Girardeau, in February 2008 but never began service in Owensboro.

Because of the rush to get KentuckySkies' air service started, Kahlstorf said, some parts of the service weren't quite ready.

The planes didn't have the new airlines' logos painted on them yet. They were landing on the general aviation and military runways east of the main terminal at Nashville International Airport.

Kahlstorf hopes to have a gate at the main terminal soon.

Baggage moves seamlessly between KentuckySkies and whichever airline the passenger will board in Nashville -- other than Southwest, which doesn't offer the service, he said.

The airline is using nine-passenger Cessna 208B Grand Caravans on the flights.

Allegiant Air has been flying nonstop with 150-passenger jets between Owensboro and Orlando, Fla., since February. But it doesn't offer connecting flights to other cities. Allegiant is currently on a two-month hiatus until Oct. 14, because the start of the school year is a slow travel time, the company says.

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