JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin Regional Airport is announcing the start of United Express flights, operated by SkyWest Airlines, to both Chicago and Denver beginning June 1, 2021. This new service results from the recent award by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to SkyWest for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program.

The new United Express flights will be on board a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ-200 aircraft, for the three-year term from June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2024. There will be daily trips to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Denver International Airport (DEN).

“We are very pleased with the DOT’s decision,” said Steve Stockam, Manager of the Joplin Regional Airport. “As many may recall, we were flying to Chicago for nine months in 2019 and it was a strong market for us. Adding the Denver hub to our service provides more connections to western destinations and will provide some new opportunities for area residents. Both hubs offer the business and leisure traveler many options. It’s an exciting time for us, both the Joplin Regional Airport and our passengers who now have new possibilities.”

Under EAS status, the DOT provides a subsidy for air service to a carrier that best meets the community’s needs. Through the three-year term, DOT will provide a first-year annual subsidy amount of $1,222,934, a second-year annual subsidy of $795,943, and a third-year annual subsidy of $498,452 for the Essential Air Service program in Joplin.

The analytical data provided by Volaire Aviation Consulting as part of this bidding process showed a distinct change in the travel pattern for the Joplin Airport by comparing Joplin domestic traffic with just single hub service to the nine months when we had dual hub service. This analysis revealed that dual hub service increased our Midwest region traffic by 408%, Northeast and Southeast region traffic grew by 53% and 29% respectively. Additionally, International Traffic increased by 40% to its highest levels in over 10 years.

“This will be a good move and offers two strong hubs for travelers from our region,” said Stockam. “We encourage all travelers to look to Joplin as the first option in their travel needs.”

Joplin officials are working closely with the airlines to finalize flight schedules. Announcements of this information will be made as the details are finalized.

In October 2020, DOT requested bids for the Essential Air Service program at Joplin Regional Airport, following American Airlines announcing their departure from 15 regional city airports which included Joplin. DOT notified American that they could not leave the Joplin market because American had originally entered the Joplin market as an EAS provider in 2010 and received a subsidy for air service. In 2018, American lifted their subsidy need due to strong air travel in the Joplin market. The DOT noted last fall that an airline providing EAS for a market cannot leave that market until future air service was secured.  In the DOT bid award, it was noted that “for the hold-in period beginning December 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (will compensate American Airlines, Inc. with a subsidy of $1,237 per flight to continue to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) at Joplin, Missouri” to  June 1, 2021, the start date of new service with United Express.

For more information, contact the Joplin Regional Airport at 623-0262, ext. 5.