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Waynesville-St. Robert Airport will get a new airline and two destinations

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Jonathan Ahl
/
St. Louis Public Radio
In 2019, potential passengers got a chance to look at one of Contour's 30-seat jets that would serve the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport at Fort Leonard Wood. Contour is returning to the airport after a year away.

The airport at Fort Leonard Wood that serves both civilians and military personnel is getting a new air carrier, and for the first time in decades, there will be two destinations from the small airport.

Contour Airlines is returning to the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport after a year away, starting Oct. 18. The airline will fly 30-seat jets to Nashville and Dallas, with 12 round-trip flights per week.

The air carrier had served the airport from February 2019 to October 2021 with flights to St. Louis.

Airports as small as Waynesville-St. Robert are guaranteed passenger service through a Federal Aviation Administration program called Essential Air Service. The FAA subsidizes one carrier, and airlines can bid for that position.

SkyWest Airlines was Waynesville-St. Robert’s EAS carrier for the past year with flights to Chicago but did not look to renew its contract, in part due to a pilot shortage, said George Lauritson, the mayor of St. Robert and the chair of the airport board.

“We’re excited Contour is coming back. They were very easy to work with, they are getting us two destinations, and this is an excellent step forward for the airport,” Lauritson said.

Contour had big plans to continue serving the airport at Fort Leonard Wood, but the passenger drop-off during the coronavirus pandemic, combined with passenger preference to drive the two hours to St. Louis Lambert International Airport instead of taking a 25-minute flight, made it difficult to continue to service.

“I think Contour is here to stay this time,” Lauritson said. “Having two destinations, one to the east and one to the west, that aren’t St. Louis will make the service more viable.”

There is a big financial incentive for the airport for Contour to succeed. If more than 10,000 passengers depart Waynesville-St. Robert in a year, the airport will get an additional $1 million in federal funding.

“We’ve been stuck around 9,200 to 9,500 for a while now,” Lauritson said. “Having two destinations should make the difference.”

Contour has agreements with American Airlines, so passengers who fly on the carrier can transfer to an American flight and check their baggage through to their final destination.

The airport has plans to build a new passenger terminal and make improvements to its runway and taxiway.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl

Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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