Air Choice One - Essential Air Service and the C208
DECATUR - The new airline to provide service between Decatur and St. Louis will include an early departure from Decatur at 6 a.m. and a late departure from St. Louis at 6:55 p.m.
Air Choice One, which will begin service to St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Dec. 15, is offering an introductory rate of $49 for flights through Jan. 10 booked 14 days in advance.
There will be three round-trips on weekdays, one on Saturdays and two on Sundays.
"It's much more convenient than it has been," Decatur Airport Director Joe Attwood said.
Negotiations are still under way for possible flights from Decatur to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, which could begin Jan. 10.
Air Choice One was recommended by Attwood and Decatur Park District leaders because it was the only airline that included the Chicago airport in its bid proposal. It is hoped that air service to O'Hare will greatly increase passenger traffic at Decatur Airport. The park district owns and operates the airport.
The outgoing airline, Great Lakes Aviation, has been providing service to St. Louis, with the earliest flights leaving at 9:47 a.m. and the latest departing from St. Louis at 3:15 p.m.
Decatur flights of both airlines are subsidized through the federal Essential Air Service program. The subsidy to Air Choice One through the U.S. Department of Transportation is $3.08 million for two years of air service.
Attwood said Great Lakes Aviation was never able to provide the four daily flights for which it originally was contracted, which resulted in a lack of early and late flights. During the two years Great Lakes provided service, the planes carried, on average, a little more than one passenger on each flight. Great Lakes has been using 19-seat Beech 1900 planes.
The nine-seat Cessna Caravan plane that will begin flying the St. Louis route Dec. 15 has an executive-style interior with wide leather captain chairs and plenty of leg room and cabin space, said Air Choice spokesman Bill Mishk. The fares for the route have not been set beyond the introductory rates.
Mishk said everything is on track for Air Choice, a St. Louis-area based carrier, to acquire a gate at O'Hare and begin service between Decatur and Chicago.
"We are having conversations with the city of Chicago," Mishk said. "We are hoping to have that concluded very shortly."
Attwood said Air Choice One has hired the two Great Lakes employees to continue working at Decatur Airport after the transition to the new air service.