U.S Department of Transportation approves new essential air service provider for Barkley Regional Airport
A new airline will officially begin service out of McCracken County’s Barkley Regional Airport in December.
The U.S. Department of Transportation approved Tennessee-based Contour Airlines as the airport’s next Essential Air Service (EAS) provider, a Barkley board press release announced Tuesday. This approval follows the board’s recommendation that USDOT choose the airline for its EAS program – a USDOT initiative that guarantees smaller, rural communities are still serviced by certified air carriers.
Contour Airlines will take over service at Barkley Regional Airport starting Dec. 6 and offer 12 round trip flights to Charlotte, North Carolina, each week on a three-year contract.
Jay Matheny, the chairman of the airport’s board of directors, hailed the announcement as exciting and potentially transformative for the community in the wake of SkyWest announcing in March that it would cease servicing Barkley and other regional airports due to pilot shortages.
“Before everything happened with the SkyWest announcement, we were working already with trying to continue air service development at Barkley Regional Airport,” Matheny said.
The board considered three potential airlines over the summer. Contour, Matheny said, offered many services that flyers in the region were looking for, including flights to airline hubs in the south, jet service and competitive ticket prices.
“One of the complaints that we've received about the flights from Paducah to Chicago is the expense,” he said. “The proposal that's been submitted by Contour is that the pricing for flights from Paducah to Charlotte, which is what Contour will be able to control, are going to be very competitive.”
The board chair said travelers in the region have been asking for southbound flights for years and he’s hoping these flights to Charlotte can solve that problem and another involving weather delays.
“So, we're hoping that flying a southeasterly direction, shall we say, is going to help alleviate some of the weather problems that plagued us,” Matheny said. “Not only in the summertime but especially in the winter flying in Chicago.”
To sweeten the deal further, Contour also is offering to hire a full-time mechanic to be in Paducah on-hand for any technical issues. Overall, Matheny said he is proud of the work Barkley Airport has done to improve air travel in the region.
“I think this is just the beginning for us. I'm so proud of this board of directors. We worked really, really hard on trying to continue to grow and develop our regional airport into something that our community in our region can be proud of.”
The announcement comes months before the airport plans to unveil a new terminal next year.