Q&A Regarding Contour Decision
Barkley Regional Airport received bids from Contour, Southern Airways, and Boutique for replacement Essential Air Service. The airport board also evaluated the possibility of maintaining SkyWest service even though SkyWest did not offer a formal bid. Contour Airlines is a regional jet operator with an excellent reputation in the industry for reliable and convenient service. Although Contour is not a well-known brand, they are an American Airlines interline partner that offers seamless ticketing and baggage connectivity to AA flights, and PAH’s community survey recognized that most respondents have flown with American in the past since American is the world’s largest carrier. Contour is also stationing a full-time mechanic to be located in Paducah, Kentucky, that will be dedicated to the aircraft that will serve Paducah flights. These steps will help increase the reliability of flights with Barkley Regional Airport. Contour’s bid for service at PAH was the only one offering twin-engine service on a jet aircraft which the airport board believed was critical to maintain, as well as connectivity to American’s global network.
Charlotte is American Airlines’ second-largest hub and provides connecting access to more than 130 domestic destinations. American’s Charlotte hub is larger than United’s Chicago hub that PAH currently has service to. In addition, the airport’s catchment study identified that many travelers from the Paducah area were traveling to cities in the South, and current connections over Chicago take significantly longer. Charlotte will better serve those connecting flights and respond to the comments the airport has heard for years about offering a better connecting hub.
Why not Nashville?
Getting service to Nashville is a priority for the airport. Still, the two bids that the airport received for Nashville service on Southern Airways and Boutique would have required the airport to waive the right to twin-engine aircraft permanently, and they wouldn’t have offered seamless connections in Nashville. The survey clearly identified the community’s desire for easy flights to Nashville, but respondents also made it clear that they wanted seamless connectivity to multiple airlines in Nashville, especially with Southwest. Nashville has fewer connections available for our passengers than the other bids presented. Neither Southern Airways nor Boutique partners with Southwest for connections, so customers would have to leave security to check-in and go through baggage with Southwest.
Why not SkyWest/Chicago?
Although SkyWest did not offer a formal bid to continue their service, the airport board considered maintaining SkyWest service to Chicago. However, SkyWest’s pilot shortages would make maintaining two daily flights challenging in the short term, leading to more flight disruptions for our customers. The airport has valued and is grateful for SkyWest’s service in the market since 2010, but in this current environment, the board believed it was essential to recommend a carrier who could reliably offer their full schedule to Paducah-area travelers.
Fares are controlled by the airlines and change frequently, so we can’t provide certainty about what to expect. As part of Contour’s bid, they indicated an expected $65 average fare from Paducah to Charlotte and connecting flights would have the American fare from Charlotte to the final destination added to that. The fares for both flights will change over time depending on demand and factors like oil prices and fees.
American is the world’s largest carrier and offers a global network that passengers can connect into. From Charlotte, American serves 35 nonstop international destinations today.
The airport board has recommended that the DOT choose Contour as Paducah’s new Essential Air Service carrier, but this is just one step in a larger process. The Department of Transportation will now evaluate the bids they’ve received as well as the comments from the airport board as they choose which carrier to select. The DOT heavily weighs the community’s feedback in their decision process, but they are not obligated to select Contour. Once the DOT makes their selection, they enter into a contract with the new carrier and a transition period begins. Overall, the timeline for this process is not fixed but typically takes several months. Once the DOT selects the replacement carrier, their selection order will contain a better timeline.
How long will the transition take?
Contour has informed us that they believe the transition will take 60 days once the DOT makes the official decision. However, we do not have a firm timeline at this point. We expect SkyWest to maintain service at PAH into this fall.
How long can we still fly SkyWest?
We expect the transition from SkyWest to a new carrier to take some months, but we do not have a firm timeline at this point. We expect SkyWest to maintain service at PAH into this fall. For more information about traveling with SkyWest, please call 1-800-864-8331 or visit United.com.