3 airlines bidding for services at Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois

Contour Airlines is making a bid to take over services at another Heartland Airport. Contour now wishes to take off in Marion
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 6:01 PM CST
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MARION, Ill. (KFVS) - Contour Airlines is making a bid to take over services at another Heartland Airport.

Contour already flies out of airports in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Paducah, Ky. But now the airline wants to take off in Marion, Ill.

Back in November in 2022, Cape Air Terminated its contract at the Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois. That opened the door for other airlines, including Contour and Southern Airways Express, to swoop in.

“We’re still in the infancy of hearing people out and listening to the airlines, listening to the community. Just doing our do-diligence to try and make the best decision,” said Doug Kimmel, Airport Director of Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois.

Kimmel says Contour Airlines is the first to make a proposal for service at Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois. That proposal includes flights to Chicago or a flight to Chicago and Nashville, based upon what the airport would prefer. Flights would be in a 30-seat regional jet product.

Southern Airways Express is expected to present their proposal next Wednesday. That would include flights to St. Louis in a 9 seat aircraft and also a flight to Chicago on a 30-seat plane.

Kimmel mentions the following week, after Southern Airways Express presents, is when Cape Air will present their proposal. That entails continued same air service to St. Louis and Nashville or an option of just St. Louis flights, with the same current aircraft.

“At this point it’s ours to listen to each of the proposals, ask questions, solicit community input and simply make our recommendation to the USDOT who makes the final determination upon which proposal and what service we feel will generate the most traffic. Not only outbound, people departing southern Illinois. But inbound as well,” said Kimmel.

Kimmel says they still have a few weeks before the proposals will be sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation. But he says there’s no way they will be able to fulfill everybody’s wants.

“One thing to keep in mind across the board with all 3 of these, is that there’s not one service that will meet the needs of everyone. And there’s not one service that will be free of issues. They all have strengths and weaknesses,” said Kimmel.

Once the proposals are sent to the US. Department of Transportation they will have up to 60 days to award who gets the new contract.

If Cape Air is selected, it will be business as usual. If one of the other 2 airlines is selected, their services could start as early as this summer.

Kimmel also mentions that the airport will be putting the proposals on their website. They are looking for the communities input on which service they believe will serve the region best.

That information will be posted as soon as possible.