Air Service Was Deeply Cut, but Not to Places Like Lake Placid

If community support evaporates, routes can be altered or eliminated, making travel difficult for people like Faith Wilson, the national sales manager in Decatur, Ill., for a maintenance product distributor. Before the pandemic, she flew twice a month, usually out of Decatur Airport to St. Louis, a 50-minute flight; the drive is about two hours..

Cape Air served Decatur, population 71,000, with nine-passenger planes flying to Chicago O’Hare International Airport and St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

When the transportation department received multiple bids for the contract renewal in March, the community wanted SkyWest. The carrier, operating as United Express, proposed flying a 50-seat jet, including 12 flights a week each about one hour in length from Decatur to O’Hare; Cape Air’s nine-seaters made the trip in an hour and 20 minutes.

Nicole Batemen, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County, a region that includes the headquarters of ADM, the multinational agricultural processor, and a Caterpillar equipment plant, said Cape Air’s planes were too small. Businesses interested in touring the area “couldn’t fit all of the delegation on one plane,” she said.

SkyWest Airlines won the contract for Decatur, but it doesn’t fly from there to St. Louis — Ms. Wilson’s frequent destination and a connection to her preferred carrier, Southwest Airlines, when she’s headed to other cities. “They took away my ability to fly Southwest,” she said.

Once she resumes traveling for business, Ms. Wilson is considering making the two-hour drive to St. Louis.

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