A column by Mayor Stacy Kinder 
June 8, 2022

I’d like to update the community on the airport service contract the city is planning to fill this month. First, a bit of history: SkyWest Airlines began its regional jet service with the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport (CGI) in December 2017, with direct flights to Chicago O’Hare Airport.  In June 2021, the city signed a new three year contract with SkyWest, due to the success seen through that partnership.  Based on that success, CGI also began developing a marketing campaign to reach even more potential passengers.  However, on March 10 2022, SkyWest informed 29 communities, including CGI, of their intent to terminate regional jet service.  They also filed a termination notice with the US Department of Transportation, which dictates the terms of our airline contracts.  All 29 communities affected were ones in which SkyWest operates as United Airlines, which was one of most popular aspects of SkyWest’s business model to our regional travelers. 

After many conversations with the affected communities, the US Department of Transportation issued an Essential Air Service (EAS) Request for Proposals on March 11, 2022.  The city moved to Volaire Aviation Consulting to help guide us during the process.  As there are 28 other communities dealing with these same problems, USDoT set a deadline of May 11 2022 to quickly assist each community with securing service.  While three proposals were received by CGI, only one regional jet service was submitted, by Contour Airlines.  The jet service is an important piece of this equation, as downgrading to 8-10 passenger single engine plane service would cause us to lose the ability to acquire jet service in the future, and negatively affect our ability to secure 10,000 enplanements per year and the FAA financial incentives that accompany that level of service. 

It is important to note that SkyWest did not submit a formal proposal during the EAS RFP process. There have been a number of rumors circulated by the public that CGI has rejected SkyWest’s proposals, or that the airport staff and airport board have not been communicative of all options.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  City staff, the city council, and the public have been kept apprised of the details in all of this as those details have become appropriate to communicate.   The number one goal of everyone is to secure the best service to our region, one which will suit our public and business travelers alike while also providing a role in the economic growth of our region.  To that end, Airport Manager Katrina Amos and her staff, along with the members of the airport board, have spent countless hours in the past several months working to secure that service.  The belief is that Contour Airlines can provide what our region needs with daily service to Nashville, while also bringing forth an interline agreement with American Airlines.  The airport advisory board voted 9-0 in favor of accepting the agreement with Contour Airlines, and sent that recommendation to the Cape City Council to be debated at the June 6 regular city council meeting.

While SkyWest has not submitted a formal proposal, the company has offered several informal suggestions of what they might see happen with CGI in the future.  At the June 6 city council meeting, Ms Amos informed us that SkyWest told her that day that they would like to rescind their termination notice with the USDoT on June 24, just days before the USDoT June 30 deadline for a new agreement to be reached for air service. 

Given that information, and coupled with the fact that the city council has received numerous contradictory communications from the public about all this in the past week, the city council voted to table the motion to accept the airport board’s recommendation until June 20, which is the next regularly scheduled city council meeting.  The goal of this postponement is to simply make sure we have the most accurate information in what is a very complicated issue.

The city believes we have a strong proposal in hand from Contour Airlines, and looks forward to seeing that relationship flourish if approved by the city council on June 20.  Given our relationship with SkyWest over the past few years, the intention is to get the best offer from SkyWest if they are indeed still interested in serving the region.  It is important for the public to understand, however, that the possible service from SkyWest in the future will definitely not be the service we have enjoyed in the past.  SkyWest has indicated they will no longer be branded with United Airlines, and there has been no guarantee of any aspect of their service yet.  We will see if they are able to present a proposal by June 20 that is acceptable to our traveling public and the region.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact your city council representative or me if you have thoughts on this matter.  Our email addresses and phone numbers are listed on the city website for just that purpose, at cityofcape.org/council.

 

 

 

 

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