Durbin, Costello: DOT Will Maintain Air Service in Marion, Quincy, Decatur

Search for new carrier is underway

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL) announced that the Department of Transportation (DOT) will require Great Lakes Airlines to provide air service in Marion, Quincy and Decatur with no interruption until a new carrier is found. In letters sent to Durbin and Costello, the DOT announced that it has already begun the process of soliciting proposals from air carriers interested in providing service in the downstate communities. The deadline for submission is August 12th.


“The DOT has expressed a strong commitment to maintaining air service which is good news for residents and businesses in downstate Illinois,” said Durbin. “I will continue to work with Congressman Costello to see that the DOT follows through on their commitment.”


“This is a very positive step toward upgrading the level of air service for these communities,” said Costello, Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee. “Importantly, service will continue while this process goes forward.”


Great Lakes Airlines is currently providing air service without a critical codeshare agreement with American Airlines – a key component of the communities’ support for Great Lakes Aviation’s application to become the EAS provider in those areas. According to Durbin and Costello, this has resulted in a drop in ridership that could potentially impact these airports federal funding.


The Essential Air Service (EAS) contracts to Quincy, Marion/Herrin and Decatur were formerly held by Regions Air which abruptly halted service on March 8th, 2007. Following the shutdown, the U.S. Department of Transportation entered into a contract with Great Lakes Airlines to resume passenger air service from downstate Illinois to St. Louis Lambert International Airport in November 2007.


The two year EAS contract signed by DOT and Great Lakes Aviation consists of a $3.5 million per year federal subsidy to operate commercial service in Decatur, Quincy and Marion, Illinois. The EAS program was established by Congress in 1978 to ensure communities with commercial air service before airline deregulation could continue scheduled flights. Without the EAS program, many communities would not receive any scheduled commercial air service. Great Lakes will continue to provide service until a new contract can be awarded. Without EAS, many rural communities would have no commercial air service at all, and residents of smaller cities would have to travel significant distances for flights.