SkyWest Airlines (USA) (OO, Salt Lake City) has filed a petition asking the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to reconsider its decision awarding an essential air service (EAS) contract at Decatur, Illinois, to Cape Air (9K, Hyannis).

Cape Air was awarded the contract covering 24x weekly return flights from Decatur to Chicago O'Hare and 12x weekly return flights to St. Louis Lambert Int'l commencing February 1, 2018, and running through to January 31, 2020. The airline will receive a USD2,915,273 subsidy in the first year of operations and USD3,002,731 in the second year.

For its part, SkyWest Airlines had offered to operate 12x weekly return flights from Decatur to Chicago O'Hare for two years for an annual subsidy of USD3,308,945.

In its filing on January 8, SkyWest argued the decision to award Cape Air the Decatur EAS contract disregarded the significant community support for SkyWest Airlines' proposal. It also underlined that while it had asked for a higher total subsidy, its per seat subsidy would be significantly lower as it had offered to serve Decatur with 50-seater CRJ-200 regional jets as opposed to Cape Air which intends to use nine-seater Cessna (twin piston) 402 aircraft.

SkyWest Airlines also argued that the DOT should have credited the airline for its marketing plan, which was similar in size and scope to others, and failed to consider the community’s desire for larger, more comfortable jet aircraft.

The DOT's decision to award the contract to Cape Air had been criticised earlier by the local and business community, including the global food processing corporation Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) which has a plant in Decatur. The company would have pledged USD100,000 to the Decatur airport for improvements had SkyWest Airlines' bid been selected.

Interested parties have until January 18, 2018, to submit their responses to SkyWest's petition.