By Kathleen Swift
June 1, 2021, will bring exciting changes to the Joplin Regional Airport. On that day, Joplin will have new air service with United Airlines to three new hubs: Chicago, Denver and Houston.
“This is an exciting time with three great hubs for the Joplin market,” said Steve Stockam, manager of the Joplin Regional Airport. “The locations and schedules will benefit our customers. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, they’ll have some options to make connections they’ve been seeking.”
The new United Express flights will be on board a 50-seat regional jet with daily trips to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Denver International Airport (DEN) and George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
Daily flights from Joplin to Chicago will depart at 8 am and to Houston at 11:44 am. Flights to Denver will depart at 5:10 pm.
This new service is the result of the recent award by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to SkyWest for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program. Under EAS status, the DOT provides a subsidy for air service to a carrier that best meets the community’s needs.
“We are very pleased with the DOT’s decision,” said Stockam. “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. Adding the Houston hub will provide a wide range of connections to the southeast and will provide some new opportunities for area residents, including connections to warm climate vacation destinations such as Mexico and the Caribbean. All 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. It’s been nearly 30 years ago that the Joplin airport offered three different hubs to our travelers making connections for both domestic and international travel. We are optimistic about this. In mid-March, flight numbers were strong and continue to grow.”
Due to the pandemic, airline service has been trimmed everywhere across the country, and the dynamics of air traffic have changed. But, Stockam noted the airport averaged 4,000 passengers a month since July 2020. The only exception was in February 2021 when the apocalyptic winter storms hit Texas.
Recent reports are showing signs of the travel industry shifting upward.
“We are optimistic,” said Stockam. “We’re excited for this new era with United giving area travelers some options to strong hubs. Right now, we are seeing a pent-up demand for air travel. This is especially true for business travelers. One local business man expressed it well when he said, ‘You can only do so much over Zoom. You need to talk to people personally.’”
Joplin Regional Airport makes those personal connections happen with competitive pricing compared to other regional airports in our area.
“American Airlines did a good job of pricing for us, and we asked United to use that model for their pricing, too. We are very competitive with Springfield and Northwest Arkansas,” said Stockam. “Time is money, and if you count time on the road, our free parking and the ability to be home quicker when you arrive, we believe Joplin offers value for both business and leisure travelers.”
Having a local airport with access to airline hubs is attractive to businesses wishing to locate in this area.
“One of the first things businesses ask,” said Stockam, “is how easily can we get parts and people from our headquarters. Air service gives our city and our area a leg up in attracting new business and keeping our current businesses serviced. It is extremely important.”
“We encourage everyone to look to Joplin as the first option in their travel needs,” said Stockam.
“For the Joplin business community, daily direct flights to Chicago, Denver and Houston will catapult Tulsa, Northwest Arkansas and Springfield as the lowest-priced air service for destinations across the northeast and western U.S., Canada and even Europe, especially when factoring in parking costs, drive time and gas. The convenience and cost savings would benefit regional businesses, area colleges and vendors from around the globe who are doing business in our region. These direct connections are also vital to attracting new industry and recruiting top talent to Joplin.”
–Toby Teeter, President,
Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce