Friday, November 24, 2023

Contour Airlines Again?

Josh suggested the idea of coming to see him and Shelby in Madison Wisconsin.  Then, we’d head down to Chicago to the Champions Classic to watch Kentucky play.  Donna had no desire to go to the ball game, so I tried to decide what options I had to get to Madison (besides a 7.5-hour drive).  So, I decided to give Contour Airlines another try.

It turns out that Contour flies to O’Hare from Marion Illinois which is about an hour drive from where I live.  I could then take a bus from O’Hare to Madison.  The cost was much less than a rental car plus I only had to drive an hour instead of over seven.  I felt adventurous so I decided to give it a try.

The Contour app is still terrible.  You cannot get your boarding pass from it; you must use the web version.  So, I ended up just getting my boarding pass printed at the Williamson County Veterans airport (it’s the actual airport name in Marion).   The airport is very nice.  I hadn’t flown out of there in years.  It reminded me very much of the design of the new Barkley Airport here.  I got my boarding pass with no problem and sat down in their very nice waiting area.  Security was easy and quick.  The waiting area to board is nice.  They do take your carry on unless it’s very small since compartment space is at a premium.  We boarded on time and headed out.

We were told that the fly time was fifty-seven minutes.  They were correct on that.  However, we didn’t get to the gate until over 30 minutes later.  Why do you ask?  You sit on the tarmac for a considerable amount of time.  Also, there is a BUS that takes you to the arrival gate.  You pick up your carry on they’ve stowed and restow it on the bus.  The bus takes you to the arrival gate.  You then take a train to the place where the rental cars are (called the MMF or multi-modal facility).   The buses leave at the hour during the day (check the schedule to be sure though).  I knew the next bus left at four, so I hustled to try and catch that one (as opposed to waiting till five).  Turned out I needn’t bothered.  The bus was almost 30 minutes late.  The driver stows your luggage underneath the bus and scans your ticket.  The buses are nice and I had a comfortable ride to Madison.  There are stops at Rockford Illinois, South Beloit Illinois and Janesville Wisconsin.  These stops are strictly to pick up passengers, you don’t have time to get off.  The bus took about 2.5 hours to get to Madison where Josh and Shelby picked me up.

So, a few days later, Shelby dropped me at the Park and Ride and I caught the bus to O’Hare.  On this route, they drop you at whatever terminal you are leaving from.  I took the Blue Line train from O’Hare (the station is at Terminal 2) to my hotel in downtown Chicago.  I then walked a few blocks to my hotel.    When I left Wednesday morning, I took the Blue Line to O’Hare.  I got my printed boarding pass from Contour again.  I headed for my gate.  Turns out that three different commuter airlines share the gate.  When we were going to board, they shouted out your flight.  You line up and then get on the shuttle bus out to your plane.  The flight back to Marion went fine.  I was even able to grab some Krispy Kreme donuts heading out of the Marion.

If you are thinking about trying this, consider the following.

  • The Contour App is terrible.  Leave enough time to get your boarding pass at the airport.
  • I would be very wary of a tight connection at O’Hare.  You think you have plenty of time when you touchdown, but with the shuttle and the immenseness of O’Hare, you very well may not.
  • Buy your bus ticket online before you get there.  You don’t have to pick a specific time; your bus ticket is good for a year.    A roundtrip ticket is a better deal than two one-way tickets.  The website is There are several possible bus bays you can be picked up at.  Listen very carefully to the people with the bullhorn, they will tell you where to wait.
  • If you are going downtown, use the train.  It’s a lot cheaper (2.50) than any other option.  Plus, you can often get there quicker if the traffic is bad.
  • Be listening for your flight at the gate in O'Hare back to Marion.  It's easy to miss if you are not paying attention.

Would I do this again?  Yes, I would.  It’s certainly a viable option to get to Chicago from the Paducah area.

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