By Joey Gerardi
Air Choice One, Down to a Single Route
Over the course of an airline’s lifetime, there are natural lulls and peaks, new destinations are added while other destinations are discontinued and this is just normal for any and all airlines around the globe, but this carrier has had nothing but a decline in recent years. Air Choice One wasn’t by any means a large carrier to begin with compared to the likes of Delta, American, or United, but as far as smaller EAS carriers go, they operated to a fair number of destinations.
Back in July of 2020, the airline operated to a total of 15-routes to 11-destinations, all of which were linked to an Essential Air Service contract. So, unlike the larger carriers, they can’t blame the closing of destinations on the pandemic as all of the flying was government-funded.
Just recently the Department of Transportation announced that the EAS contract in Burlington, Iowa, code ‘BRL’ on the above map, was given to Massachusetts-based Cape Air for flights to Chicago O’Hare and St. Louis. According to the DOT contract, which can be found on regulations.gov, Cape Air is scheduled to begin flights to Burlington, Iowa on Feb. 1, 2022. This means that come Feb. of 2022 Air Choice One will only have one route, to two cities. Jonesboro, Arkansas is the only EAS contract that Air Choice One will have after Feb. 1, 2022, and the other city it will serve as the carrier’s ‘hub’ in St. Louis which is linked to the contract in the northern Arkansas community.
During every EAS bidding process, the community and its citizens recommend the airline that they want in their city. There are many different things the community looks at when recommending air service but such basic items are what aircraft type it will use, what cities it will operate to, how much marketing it will do on top of a whole host of other topics. But arguably, the biggest thing communities look for is the ease of connecting passengers to a major airline network.
This easy connecting is done through the use of codeshares, interline, and baggage agreements with larger mainline carriers, which makes it so passengers don’t have to re-check bags and re-clear security at the large hubs. Air Choice One doesn’t have any codeshares, interline, or baggage agreements to speak of at all, which is the main reason why they are losing out on EAS contracts and has been seen many times in the comments of citizens in each respective community. One example of such a comment can be found HERE.
As previously mentioned Jonesboro, Ark. is in the midst of its EAS bidding process, and despite the lack of any airline agreements, the community has recommended that Air Choice One be re-selected for the EAS contract again. So, there is still a chance that the airline will keep the contract in this community, but the decision whether they do is now completely up to the Department of Transportation.
The loss of the airline’s contract over the past two years are as follows;
August 1, 2020 – Boutique Air took the Ironwood, Mich. contract, which now belongs to Denver Air Connection.
March 1, 2021 – SkyWest, under the United Express banner, took the contracts for the communities of both Mason City, Iowa, and Fort Dodge, Iowa. This also caused the Minneapolis-St. Paul hub to close.
June 1, 2021 – Boutique Air took the contract for Jackson, Tenn. and the loss of this contract also forced them to close Atlanta and Destin, Fla.
February 1, 2022 – Cape Air will take the EAS contract for Burlington, Iowa, which will cause them to close Chicago O’Hare.
I took a flight with the airline back in November of 2020, when they still operated Fort Dodge and Mason City, and wrote a trip report about it which can be found HERE. The airline operates Spirit Airlines like service as they charge for carry-on bags despite being a very small regional airline that fly’s primarily 8-seat Cessna 208’s and a small number of Beech-1900’s.
AirlineGeeks did reach out to Air Choice One via. Instagram in the spring of 2021 when they announced the loss of Jackson in the state of Tennessee, and we inquired to them what their plans would be after they lost that city. They responded with “Just wait and see where we fly to after June 1st 🙂 “. That date has since come and gone long ago, and they still sit at the current number of four destinations, which is soon to be only two destinations.
We have reached out to the carrier once again recently to inquire just what their plans are when they drop down to their final route in February of 2022, but have failed to respond in time for the publication. The article when more information becomes available.