There is a very controversial subsidy program provided by the Department of Transportation called Essential Air Service where airports in small communities have guaranteed air service to major hub airports. These flights are very unprofitable and seldom traveled, but the promise to these small towns to build an airport came with the big fat yearly check of $200 a passenger ticket to keep these routes open. A list of these airports can be found here on wikipedia, notice how they are mostly in Alaska, but look how there is one in Decatur, Illinois!
If you have ever seen the movie “The Informant” or listened to the TAL podcast on the same story you will know the town of Decatur, Illinois. This small town is both the home of Millikin University, and HQ to ADM, “The Super Market to the World”. AMD got messed up with Ajinomoto and fixed the price of Lysine in a super evil plot for world food additive domination. The plot was busted open by the Matt Damon character, and order was restored in the world.
The AMD thing may be unrelated, but imagine you are a hot shot executive you would need to drive 60 mins west to Springfield or 59 mins East to Champaign Urbana for a very well established route on United to STL or ORD. Since you own the world with your lysine money, you could fly out of Decatur direct to both STL or ORD. I guess they some some how convinced the DOT to have this sweet direct route to ORD and STL despite two perfectly good airports to the east and west of the town.
A company called Air Choice One has won this contract worth $2,667,922. This is not a new company, nor is it the first time I flew with them. There are some pretty good trip reviews on the experience here so I won’t go on posting too many photos, but I must confirm that the morning flight usually empty with me being the only passenger. The especially comes in handy of you have to use the chemical toilet located in the back seat.
The one way flight from STL to ORD with a 20 min stopover in DEC cost me $108 (with an estimated $400 DOT subsidy). When charged on my MasterCard Gold Luxury Card it was instantly taken from my $200 a year credit. For those assholes out there that got the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it would be taken out of your $300 travel credit. You only have 3 more months to spend it, so why not on this heavy subsidized route. I would probably do an overnight in Champaign Urbana next time, check out my old stomping grounds. Get on that reimbursable travel spend, the year is over!
The benefits are a bit mixed here for AD. I asked at check in about getting TSA PreCheck, of which she had a hardy laugh. I guess they don’t so it was the basic bitch line for me, shoes off, laptops out like some sort of non status animal. However on the flip side Military get a free checked bag! I also got into the American Airlines lounge. They did request my orders this time, and I also had to show I was connecting from the AA flight that brought me here in the first place. So YMMV for sure, I figure if you are pleasant and don’t dress like a dirt bag, you can get in for free!