Air Choice One, ORD-DEC


#1

Hi, been a while since I’ve posted, too much work on the railroad side of my life to travel. I’m heading out to the Midwest tomorrow, KBWI-DTW-ORD on Delta (including a scheduled DC-9-50 DTW-ORD…even paid the “Economy Comfort” fee to be in my favorite seat, 5A…Delta now calls it 6A). I splurged since I’m guessing this will be my last ever trip on a DC-9 family aircraft.

After I visit friends in Chicago, I need to get to a town about an hour northeast of St. Louis. On previous trips, I’ve taken Amtrak, but their Chicago-St. Louis service is suspended for 8 days for major construction. I was at the end of my loop and about to consider The Dog, when I found Air Choice One.

I booked a ticket today from KORD to KDEC for $44 on a Cessna 208-B. Call me crazy, but I’m excited for this adventure…anyone know anything about Air Choice One or flying on a plane this small? Yes, I do know that this is a silly question on FA. Their website tells me that they use gate L10 in Terminal 3 at ORD, and “the last check in gate and the end of Terminal 3” so at least I have that figured out.

I assume it won’t be a struggle to negotiate the terminal at KDEC. :slight_smile:


#2

The flight operates from the end of the L concourse like any other flight at ORD. You ground board. They also fly to Burlington, Iowa from ORD and your plane will likely continue to St. Louis.

The seats are leather and nice and the view is spectacular as it’s a high wing aircraft with the engine in the front. Unfortunately there’s not much of interest to see between ORD and DEC except for the southwest suburbs - maybe a few rock quarries.

Air Choice One has been flying the route with an EAS subsidy for about 4 years.

This and the flight to BRL are currently the only scheduled passenger propeller plane service to ORD.

I’ve been wanting to take this flight for awhile but haven’t had the spare time available to justify taking a flight just for its own sake.


#3

I’ve been to DEC (I did not fly in but I got the big picture) there is one “gate” which has its very own little security check-point. What town are you actually going to? I understand non-stop ORD-BMI or ORD-SPI would be a lot more expensive than $44, so it sounds like a good option. And, no, you are not crazy, I would look forward to the experience myself (beats an inter-city bus through Central Illinois, been there done that :frowning: ). Besides, if you get lucky you might be able to act as “copilot.” Unfortunately, though, I think the flight has to be full in order for this to happen; and as drdisque said, the loads are pretty light. Either way I am sure it will be a great experience.


#4

Thanks for you feedback, sorry I did not respond now. Gmail did something goofy about 2 weeks ago and took all my “safe” emails out of the spam filter and everything’s been going there. Ahh, technology.

Took the trip today, and it was great! I did some research on where WBR boarded at KORD, so I knew where I was going. However, the Customer Service Transportation Manager in me decided to test KORD staff. 3 of 4 flunked, 2 of which claimed there was no such thing as Air Choice One. When I showed one of them my printed confirmation, he made a veiled but noticeable suggestion that I had a fraudulent confirmation. “All we have here (Terminal 3) is American, Alaska, and Virgin, if you are riding anything else you might want to talk to that guy (pointed to CPD officer).” So of course I did, and he promptly directed me to the check in counter. When I told him what the idiot “Customer Service” agent told me, he went over to him and discussed the issue with him, in what I would say was a raised voice. (yes, I walked away)

The whole customer service experience on Air Choice One was excellent… a couple of excerpts from the email I sent their Customer Service tonight:

“At the gate, your customer service representative made several announcements reminding passengers that the plane did not have restroom facilities and encouraged passengers to use the nearby restrooms.”

(after shutting down at KDEC) “the First Officer clearly explained that passengers continuing on to St. Louis were welcome to stay on the plane or go in the terminal to use the restroom or purchase a snack. And finally, he thanked us for riding Air Choice One.”

Finally, “While you operate a small airline without the amenities of the “big carriers”, you offer a friendly, welcoming transportation experience that, frankly, the “big carriers” can’t match up to.”

If you have the chance to fly with them, do it! I know I’ll be back as soon as I can.


#5

Yes, I checked BMI, SPI, STL, even CMI. All were in the $300 + range.

I was flying in to DEC to get to Worden, IL then on to CMI, both to visit friends. Headed back to BWI thru BMI via ATL on Sunday. Got a good rental car without drop fee; pickup DEC, drop BMI. The franchise owner for the Budget/Avis rental counter at DEC is great, he’s pretty much a one man show…takes cars out to be fueled and cleaned between Air Choice One arrivals.


#6

I’ve flown Air Choice One a few times to visit friends that live in DEC. Overall, they have been a very positive experience and I would not hesitate to fly them again. The staff and pilots were friendly and very professional throughout the entire process. The situation at ORD is not the best. Only one gate and it’s usually not staffed. There is a 1-800 number you can call with a good response and was able to answer our questions, (inbound plane was running late to ORD). Being used to flying coach, the seats were excellent. They were leather and extremely spacious. As stated before, no drink service and no restrooms. If you are not used to flying a prop, the ride can be a little slow, loud and bumpy especially depending on the weather conditions. In DEC, there is one gate in the entire airport. I was actually running a bit behind and showed up about a half hour before my departure time. I was reminded by the gate agent I need to arrive earlier so they can do their weighing to balance the plane. I believe I was the first of the 5 people on the flight to check in too…After checking in, we had to wait for TSA to open up. Gotta love small airports. The view is great though. Not a ton of “scenery”, but always feels great to be up in the air.

On a side note, a “funny” story from one of the trips. We were flying really late out of ORD to DEC. The weather had put a delay (go figure at ORD) and there were storms all around us. We were able to get out, but it was a pretty rough ascent. I’m sitting right behind the pilots and they had a pretty hefty workload getting out. We finally get out of the clouds and it’s a pretty calm night after that. Just past halfway though the flight, I hear one of the passengers calling for the pilot. (remember no flight attendants) They finally are able to get the copilots attention and tell him there is a sick passenger on board. I’m guessing motion sickness or dehydration. They ask if there is water on board and the pilots look at each other with the “oh crap what do we do type look”. One of them reaches into their bag and grabs a half empty mountain dew and offers to pass it back to the passenger. Another passenger chimes in and finds a bottle of water. We were too close to divert and the passenger eventually felt better and we landed without incident. Growing up in the midwest, I just have to laugh looking back. It was the typical midwest take the shirt off your back to try and help when the pilots offered up the pop. Probably one of those “had to be there” type moments, but it still cracks me up thinking about it.


#7

I’m a little late to this post, but, next time you travel to DEC and take AMTK stop in at the SPI depot and say hi. I work there.
They were doing bridge construction so it was ALL busses that week!

On the Air Choice One side… I usually devote my extra money to renting airplanes to fly myself, but I have been wanting to take a little Caravan trip sometime on them. Maybe DEC-STL and passride back to SPI?

While it’s sad that the C concourse once full of red and white DC-9s, 727s, and even L10s and 767s, it is a pretty neat little operation going on down at the beginning gates. You have Air Choice and Cape Air, both of which have a big presence at STL. It’s neat to watch all the Cessna products come and go.