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Boutique Air Announces Two New Destinations
During the age of COVID-19, planes are not as full as they used to be. With lighter loads and passengers wanting to be around fewer people, one airline has decided it could find a niche in this lower load market. San Francisco-based Boutique Air has announced two new destinations to its route map, Altoona, Penn. and Palm Springs, Calif.
This is an unexpected and bold move by the carrier as it has had relatively slow growth over the past couple of years. The carrier inaugurated it’s first new destination in two years back in August, commencing flights to Ironwood, Mich.
With this announcement of flights to Palm Springs and Altoona, this means the carrier has started or is going to start service to five destinations in a five-month period: Ironwood, Mich. and Chicago O’Hare on Aug.1; Nashville on Aug. 23; Palm Springs will on Oct. 1; and Altoona, Penn. on Jan. 1, 2021.
This new destination is part of the government’s Essential Air Service (EAS) program. The carrier was awarded the EAS contract for the Pennsylvanian city, which will run from Jan. 1, 2021, until Dec. 31, 2022.
With a new year brings a new carrier, as Boutique will be taking over the EAS contract in Altoona from Hernando, Mississippi-based Southern Airways Express. The Mississippi carrier currently flies to Altoona from the same two cities but instead using a much slower Cessna 208 Caravan.
According to the document regarding the awarding of service, the San Francisco-based carrier will serve Altoona via the Blair County Airport 13 times per week from each Pittsburgh and Baltimore/Washington International on board the carriers Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. The service will be at an annual subsidy rate of $2,862,610 for the first year and $2,919,862 for the second year.
From now until Dec. 31, when the current contract expires, Southern Airways Express will continue to operate flights to Altoona, Penn. meaning that there will be no service hiatus during the transition between carriers.
Palm Springs, Calif.
This destination was quite a shock to the aviation community as Palm Springs is not close to becoming an EAS city, meaning the route will be flown without a government subsidy. Boutique is an airline that is known for operating only to cities that are a part of the Essential Air Service program. It has operated a few non-EAS routes in the past, with the most recent being summer-only service to Telluride, Colo. which hasn’t operated in over a year.
Service to Palm Springs will begin on Oct. 1 with flights to both Los Angles and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, essentially connecting the airlines California routes to its Phoenix and Denver operations. Flights will operate once daily in each direction on board the carriers Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.
Brian Kondrad, the assistant general manager of Boutique Air, told AirlineGeeks about the new route to Palm Springs that, “We are excited to bring our exclusive style plane as a new type of service for the people of Palm Springs and connections. Our already established communities of Show Low [Ariz.] and Merced [Calif.] will also be able to connect easily with us to [Palm Springs]”.
As mentioned by Kondrad, Boutique passengers from Merced and Show Low can now fly one-stop solely with the carrier to the southern Californian city. If passengers wish to connect from outside the airline’s network, they will be able to book the Boutique flights on American Airlines’ and United Airlines’ websites.
By booking on either American or United’s website means passengers can get ticketed and check bags all the way through to their final destination, without having to pick them up at baggage claim while switching to/from Boutique flights.
With this service to Palm Springs, it will also be the first time in years that the airline will directly compete with a major airline. On the Palm Springs to Los Angeles sector, it will compete with United Airlines, and on the Palm Springs to Phoenix sector, it will compete with American Airlines.
“We used to serve [Phoenix] to [Las Vegas] for years and it was never an issue [competing] with [American Airlines]. We are looking to also provide both partners with through traffic as well to connect to other UA or AA flights in [Los Angeles] and [Phoenix],” Konrad said.
The flights to Palm Springs are now available for booking on Boutique Air’s website and flights are scheduled to begin on Oct. 1, 2020. The flight schedule is depicted on the chart below.
“We are always on the lookout for cities and destinations that would be a great addition to out route network,” Kondrad said of the airline’s future network. “Our goal is to efficiently grow Boutique Air. We have spend the past few years working on some internal items to therefore grow our route network.”
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