Contour Airlines Wins US Subsidies For Regional Routes

The routes will feed traffic into the hubs of American Airlines, which Contour interlines with.

Credit: Joe Pries

Contour Airlines has been selected by the US Transportation Department (DOT) to operate eight Essential Air Service (EAS) routes, a major expansion for the small US regional carrier.

The routes will feed traffic into American Airlines hubs and passengers will be able to transfer to the American network via an interline agreement between the carriers. Each of the routes will be operated 12X-weekly. 

EAS is a US government program that subsidizes air service to small markets.

From Oct. 4, Tennessee-based Contour will begin service between Pennsylvania's Altoona (AOO) and that state's largest city Philadelphia (PHL). From Oct. 18, the carrier will start operating three new routes: Fort Leonard Wood (TBN) and Cape Girardeau (CGI) in Missouri to Nashville (BNA); and TBN to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW).

From Nov. 1, the airline will launch routes to Charlotte (CLT) in North Carolina from both Lewisburg (LWB) in West Virginia and Shenandoah Valley (SHD) in Virginia.   

The airline will start another two CLT routes in December from Clarksburg (CKB) in West Virginia and Paducah (PAH) in Kentucky.

On its website Contour says it “now offers passengers the ability to search for connecting flight options, including travel on American Airlines from their originating airport to their destination of choice.”

The airline said it is well situated in the current environment in which US regional airlines are having difficulty hiring enough pilots, forcing many carriers to reduce service to smaller markets.

Since it operates a large Part 135 charter service, “Contour is able to successfully recruit and develop pilots from a variety of backgrounds while serving small communities federally designated for Essential Air Service,” the airline said.

Contour noted that the new routes will bring to 10 the number of smaller cities it has started serving this year under the EAS program, more than any other airline has added in 2022. Overall, it will serve 26 points in the US when all of the new routes are launched.

Contour CEO Matt Chaifetz said the carrier has “received enthusiastic support” from the seven new communities it will be serving, adding that the airline will maintain a “critically important link to our nation’s air transportation system” for the EAS markets.

Contour operates a combination of Bombardier CRJ100 and Embraer E-145 regional jets. The airline said it has started taking delivery of 10 Embraer E-140 jets that will be configured to carry 30 passengers in an expanded-leg-room format.