Cape hopes Paducah airport success catches on here

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Paducah, Kentucky, and Cape Girardeau have much in common. Though Cape Girardeau has a population of some 14,000 more people, both cities have downtowns on a riverfront; both towns are regional hubs with shopping, good restaurants and medical facilities. And the towns are an easy drive away.

Cape Girardeau has several advantages — a university instead of a two-year institution, for example. But when it comes to airports, the folks in Paducah have had more success.

Cape Girardeau airport officials hope a new relationship with Paducah might yield results here.

As reported recently by both Mark Bliss and Tyler Graef, SkyWest Airlines has discontinued Cape Girardeau-to-Chicago flights with layovers in Quincy, Illinois, in favor of layovers in Paducah, which will bring seven more weekly flights to Cape Girardeau.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Paducah’s airport saw 20,910 enplanements in 2017, compared to just 6,321 in Cape Girardeau. Our city has already seen an increase in boardings since bringing on SkyWest to Cape Girardeau, which meant connecting flights to Chicago rather than St. Louis, a fairly easy drive from Cape Girardeau. SkyWest gives travelers more options for connecting flights. Officials have been hoping for more than a decade to reach the 10,000-boarding bench mark to be eligible for the $1 million subsidy from the federal government for more airport upgrades. Officials are more optimistic than ever it will finally happen.

Perhaps some of Paducah’s success, along with SkyWest’s business model, will rub off here.

Cape Girardeau airport officials celebrated the start of seven additional United Express round-trip flights weekly to Chicago last week.

The expanded schedule provides Cape Girardeau with three round-trip flights to Chicago from Monday through Friday, and two round-trip flights on both Saturday and Sunday, officials said.

The added flights through Paducah will take three hours to Chicago (including layover), while the several direct flights from Cape Girardeau each week take 1 hour, 40 minutes.

Whether the additional flights routed through Paducah will add boardings may depend on customers’ preferences regarding the layover in Paducah.

Regardless, the new flights are a promising development. We hope our local airport finds a new altitude.

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