Cape Air has announced that its new flights from Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport to Nashville International Airport will begin on Jan. 22.

Cape Air was elected to continue being the airport's essential air service (EAS) provider by the airport board and the U.S. Department of Transportation this summer. As part of their pitch to maintain the EAS contract, Cape Air promised to, aside from maintaining flights to St. Louis, add Nashville routes, contribute $50,000 for marketing and use their new twin-engine Tecnam P2012 Travellers nine-passenger aircraft.

EAS is a U.S. Department of Transportation program that guarantees that small communities in the United States that were served prior to the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978 maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service. The DOT is mandated to provide eligible EAS communities with access to the National Air Transportation System. This is generally accomplished by subsidizing two round trips a day with 30- to 50-seat aircraft, or additional frequencies with aircraft with nine seats or fewer, usually to a large- or medium-hub airports. Currently, the DOT subsidizes commuter or certificated air carriers in 60 communities in Alaska and 115 communities in the lower 48 contiguous states.

While there was some hope that the new routes would begin prior to the new year, this was the best possible strategy, said Airport Director Rob Barnett.

"A lot of consideration and planning goes into developing a new schedule and new connection points," he said. "We also had to take into account the possible disruption to Christmas travel. We definitely did not want to negatively impact our passengers that have booked. Bookings are already live on the Cape Air website. We wanted to make sure it was structured and up and running to accept bookings so that everything is in place."

The airport and Cape Air will run two flights to and from Nashville seven days a week and one flight to and from St. Louis seven days a week. If the first quarter numbers show that the new routes to Nashville are popular, airport officials and Cape Air can increase routes, Barnett said.

"We are extremely excited to have a date set for the new routes to begin," he said. "We have received a lot of interest in the Nashville route through social media, email, phone calls, and we are working with Cape Air daily for marketing proposals as well as package giveaways to promote both cities. It is exciting to be able to go from the home of bluegrass to Music City in less than an hour."

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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