Durbin, Costello Urge DOT to Begin Search for New Air Carrier in Quincy, Decatur, and Marion

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Jerry Costello (D-IL) today asked the Department of Transportation to begin soliciting proposals from air carriers interested in providing service in the communities of Quincy, Decatur and Marion. In a letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, the Illinois members expressed disappointment with Great Lakes Airlines – the current service provider’s – inability to fulfill their original commitments.


“Quincy, Decatur and Marion breathed a sigh of relief when Great Lakes Airlines stepped in to resume service to St. Louis after the previous carrier abandoned these downstate communities,” said Durbin. “But Great Lakes Airlines has not kept up its side of the bargain. As the end of their contract approaches, we need to begin the process of looking for a new service provider that will better address the needs of Illinois communities and provide quality, safe, reliable air service to St. Louis.”


“We want these communities to have the quality service they were promised and is necessary for the EAS program to be effective,” said Costello, Chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee. “Dependable air service is critical for economic development and keeping all regions of the country connected, and carriers have a responsibility to meet their commitments.”


Great Lakes Aviation 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.