Contour Airlines Debuts at Chicago O’Hare International Airport

by Anthony Losanno
Contour Airlines 2

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Contour Airlines is a regional airline based in Smyrna, TN. All Contour Airlines flights are public charters sold and operated by its parent company, Contour Aviation. It’s now expanding its route network with three new flights from Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) on August 1st.

The three new routes are being added as part of the government’s Essential Air Service (EAS) program. It provides grants for airlines to operate routes to smaller, underserved airports. All three of these destinations qualify for this program and will offer 12x weekly flights between each destination. These include:

  • Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois (MWA)
  • Kirksville Regional Airport (IRK)
  • Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport (OWB)

Contour Airlines 2

Each of Contour’s new destinations were previously served by Cape Air from Nashville International Airport (BNA) and St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL). None of these destinations have ever had scheduled service to Chicago.

Anthony’s Take: There have been a lot of new carriers and existing, smaller airlines adding service to underserved cities and new markets lately. I’m not sure why Cape Air dropped these routes, but wish Contour luck.

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derek July 25, 2023 - 12:45 pm

The case for government subsidized service in Owensboro is really weak and wasteful. Evansville, Indiana has air service and is not too far away. Veterans/Marion is also a weak argument but a stronger than Owensboro. Kirksville is in a sorry location. Columbia, MO is kind of far and doesn’t have good service.

Jason S July 25, 2023 - 5:45 pm

Cape Air didn’t drop them by choice. They bid for the service (as is requirement of the program… most are on a 2 to 4 year contract with escalations each year). The communities recommended against Cape Air and the DOT, evaluating this input along with the costs proposed including subsidy per passenger (and obviously a larger jet to a better connecting point is proposed to drive an increase in traffic) selected Contour. Contour has had great success in some other locations in driving up traffic over the magic 10k per year enplanement figure that leads to more FAA funding for airports… Muscle Shoals, AL is an example.

I’m booked on the first Contour out of Owensboro next week. I think the big losers in this are the Uber drivers of the city – no more rides to STL or BNA when Cape Air cancels. The connection via ORD will be better, and more conducive to booking the ticket as part of a major airline itinerary – I booked via AA, so connection is guaranteed. None of this Cape Air canceling, Uber to STL, “too bad so sad” about other airline connection, and last minute high fare purchase to continue.


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