WATERLOO — American Airlines will continue to serve the Waterloo Regional Airport for at least two more years.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has confirmed a new two-year contract for American Airlines to provide twice-daily flights between Waterloo and Chicago through the federal Essential Air Service program.
American Airlines, which has been Waterloo’s sole carrier since 2012, will continue its 13 round trips each week to Chicago O’Hare International Airport on 50-seat jets operated through regional brand American Eagle.
Both American Airlines and United Airlines had submitted proposals to USDOT’s Office of Aviation Analysis through the Essential Air Service program, which provides a federal subsidy for airlines to fly out of smaller markets.
United Airlines had also proposed 13 round trips to Chicago but was seeking a $1.9 million annual subsidy compared to the $1.73 million sought by American Airlines.
The Waterloo Airport Board had voted 4-1 in November to recommend switching to United Airlines based on the airline’s higher flight completion rate, which is the percentage of scheduled departures and arrivals that actually take place.
“It did go against our community recommendation,” said Airport Director Keith Kaspari. “When I look at what’s going on in D.C., with everyone trying to save a nickel wherever they can, I think that was kind of the deciding factor.
“But we’re going to move forward with American; we’re going to continue to market this service,” he added. “We’ve still got pretty good looking airfares to a number of destinations.”
Hugh Field, chairman of the airport board, said he too hoped the continued relationship with American Airlines can stop passenger leakage to other airports.
“We intend to keep working with American to improve service, and we think they will,” Field said. “If they provide Waterloo with good service people will fly out of Waterloo.”
Mayor Quentin Hart said the city appreciates the USDOT’s support of his community’s airport.
“The Waterloo Regional Airport provides the critical air service link for business and leisure travelers,” Hart said in a news release. “It is imperative that Waterloo retain, improve and expand air service offerings for Cedar Valley area passengers.
“A reliable and dependable air service partner is critical to moving Waterloo business and the region forward,” he added.
Kaspari said retaining American Airlines gives local passengers “seamless connections to an extensive number of domestic and international markets to Chicago and its over 400 daily departures.”
The retention of American Airlines for two more years effective May 1 also helps Waterloo Regional Airport users avoid disruptions and concerns about whether frequent flier miles could have been transferred to United Airlines.
“I look forward to continuing an existing long-term relationship with American officials so that we cannot just meet but exceed the expectations of American for passenger support from Waterloo Regional Airport,” Kaspari said.