Cape Air awarded four-year contract

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cape Air was awarded a four-year contract Monday, the longest ever for a service provider at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, that also brings with it the promise of a new downtown ticket office and less hassle at St. Louis security gates.

The. U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Hyannis, Mass.-based Cape Air was selected for the Essential Air Service contract over the other applicant, Air Choice One, which has corporate headquarters in St. Louis.

The contract runs from Dec. 1, 2011, through Nov. 30, 2015, and provides annual federal subsidies of $1.6 million. This is Cape Air's second contract with Cape Girardeau since it began operations in November 2009.

"We've been extremely happy with their consistency and their on-time performance," airport manager Bruce Loy said. "Their customer service is top-notch. We're happy to get them back."

Cape Air had the part of its proposal for six daily flights rejected, however, a point Loy found disappointing. Cape Air was also awarded similar contracts at Illinois airports in Quincy and Marion. Those were given six daily round trips, while Cape Girardeau will maintain four.

"I would have been a lot happier with six trips," Loy said. "Marion and Quincy got their usual six, and we got our usual four. But getting them for four years is a pretty big deal."

The longer contract also provided some savings: A two-year contract would have paid Cape Air $1.66 million a year, but the four-year contract will pay $1.62 million yearly.

Andrew Bonney, Cape Air's vice president of planning, said the company is thrilled to be awarded the contract. The contract includes two significant improvements, Bonney said: a downtown ticket office and the elimination of going through security in St. Louis in most circumstances. The ticket office will open downtown sometime around Dec. 1, Bonney said. Such a ticket office will increase the visibility of the airport and air service in the community, he said.

Cape Air will also provide an interterminal shuttle at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, which would create "seamless connections" between terminals without requiring passengers to clear security again, he said.

Cape Air has seen success in Cape Girardeau, which had several years of spotty service from previous carriers. In 2010, Cape Air carried more than 9,000 passengers. In March, Cape Air had 505 boardings, which is up from about 300 over March 2010.

"We just continue to have wonderful momentum," Bonney said. "Successful air service isn't about an airline showing up. It's about a partnership between the airline and the community, and that's really what's been driving our success."

The future of the Essential Air Service program is uncertain, however, with Congress currently considering eliminating the program altogether.

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport

Map of pertinent addresses

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