Why Chicago is the Best Option for Paducah

There are many reasons that we believe that our connection to Chicago via United Express is the best possible connection for Paducah.
Under EAS Guidelines, any airline serving Paducah must provide 70 seats a day of service 6 days a week to a medium or large sized hub.

In our case the most viable options would be service to Nashville, St. Louis, Chicago Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte, or Houston.

Now at this point it might be tempting to say that Nashville or even St. Louis are good options, they are close, they are both medium hubs, and they are close.
However, from the airlines perspective, there are additional criteria to consider; type(s) of aircraft they own, cost of operating the flight, number of gates they have at an airport, and other logistical issues, (number of available aircraft, gates, pilots, etc)

Now when you look at the 3  “major airlines”  American, Delta, and United, none of them are hubbed at either airport, though they each do have some flights there.  Southwest, technically considered to be a “Low Cost Carrier” and not a true airline, doesn’t have hubs at all, just “focus cities,” which both airports are.

You can get many places from Nashville, directly 76 to be precise, only 3 of which are international, in Mexico and Canada.  And from those cities you can connect to other destinations, usually after a flight to a major airlines’ hub airport.

Conversely, Chicago is a United Airlines hub, and from O’Hare United flies to every corner of the globe, directly, some 300+destinations in total, including many major international cities and capitals.

Once you look beyond the “big  4”airlines, there are numerous other airlines that have service to and from Nashville, many of these are smaller airlines that operate 9,19, or 30 seat turboprop aircraft, which offer limited reach.

And this is where the other big issue comes in, agreements with other airlines.  You see there are two main types of agreements that smaller airlines often make with the major air carriers, to the benefit of passengers, they are Code Share and Interline agreements.

CodeShare agreements allow passengers to book and fly under the code of a major airline, even though one or more flights might be operated by a different airline.  They also allow you to book your entire trip from the major airline’s website and make sure your bags are transferred to your connecting flight(s) without having to re-check them or go through security screening.

Interline agreements allow passengers to book multiple segments on multiple airlines, and baggage to transferred between airlines. Which while you may have to book flights separately, your baggage will be transferred without you having to check it more than once.

While a few of these smaller airlines have agreements with major airlines, many do not.  And Southwest doesn’t have any agreements with any other airline. So you fly Southwest to where Southwest flies, or make additional arrangements on your own.

So the absence of these agreements makes travel a little less convenient for you the passenger.  Take for example the recent case of Bowling Green.    In August Contour Airlines began service to Atlanta from Bowling Green, twice daily.     Everyone knows Delta Airlines’ major hub is Atlanta, so on the surface this was a great thing for Bowling Green.   But Contour didn’t have any agreements with Delta, not for lack of trying, they just weren’t interested in making one with Contour. 

This means that if you were flying anywhere other than Atlanta, even on Delta, you would have to check your bag at BGA, and ATL and go through TSA Screening at both airports.   A major inconvenience, for anyone, even if ticket prices from Kentucky to Atlanta were low.

As a result of these additional conditions to making connections, the numbers on the flights began to dwindle, to the point that just last month Contour ended the service out of Bowling Green, after just 4 months.

Now it should be said that the arrangement that United and SkyWest have in Paducah is a contracted one.  They are United airlines flights, that are booked from United.com, subject to United airlines rules and procedures, even though SkyWest Airlines operates the flights. So think of SkyWest as a Subcontractor for United Airlines. 


With Nashville and St. Louis off the list for EAS providers, we look to the other medium to large sized hubs closest to Paducah, service to which if deemed viable comes at a certain degree of cost versus Chicago.

DALLAS-  American Airlines hub*,  distance makes economics not favorable, lose connection to  some of Europe and Asia/Middle East.

CHARLOTTE- American Airlines hub*, economics a little better than Dallas, lose connections to Asia/Middle East.

ATLANTA- Delta hub  - Delta not interested in EAS service,  no other major airline hubbed here.

HOUSTON – United hub –  Distance less than favorable, lose connectivity to Europe and Asia. Though we could gain connections to South America

*American also has a hub in Chicago, and if they were to bid to serve Paducah, they would likely offer service to O'Hare before any other hub, as it is the closest one to Paducah.

All things considered, we know Chicago has issue  in terms of weather’s effects on traffic. But on average 97% of our flights fly year after year, in spite of the weather.

We also know that a good number of people see flying to Chicago first as going out of the way, or in the wrong direction but due to the nature of the industry this is not the case.  Please see our posts about the state of the industry or a heads-up comparison of flying from Paducah vs. Nashville, which better illustrate this.

After reading this post, though we hope you better understand why we view our conduit to Chicago, with one-stop access on a major airline,  and level of connectivity it provides, as the single best option for the travelers in our region.

But rest assured we are not hanging our hat on this service, but we are constantly striving to enhance this service with other options, from either additional airlines, or additional United flights.  

But the best way you can help either of these to happen is to realize the value in what we have here,  how lucky we are to have it, and fly us more often, even if its just one more time that you did last year.   That could go a long way in helping us to grow.  

Which is why we say when you fly,fly Barkley!