< Reveal sidebar

The four biggest EAS carriers in the United States, TOP: Southern Airways Express and Cape Air BOTTOM: Boutique Air and SkyWest (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi

EAS Round Up — Part 1

Essential Air Service (EAS) has been in the news frequently the past couple of months, and large airports aren’t the only airports that have news to report on. This new series, titled ‘EAS Round up’ will touch on any news regarding the contracts in the EAS airport community.

Whether it is a new airline being selected for a city, or the current airline being re-selected to serve the community, they will be announced in this series.

Airports With Service Changes

Altoona, Penn. (AOO)

This central Pennsylvania city currently holds a contract with Florida-based Southern Airways Express and has operated the Cessna Caravan, another name for the Cessna 208, to Pittsburgh and Baltimore since October 2018.

The two-year contract with Southern Airways Express ran from Oct. 1, 2018, until Sept. 30. But the contract with Southern Airways Express was extended until Dec. 31 due to the late decision from the Department of Transportation in selecting the new carrier.

Boutique Air will be the new carrier to this Pennsylvanian airport and will serve the region via the Blair County Airport with a minimum of 26 round trips per week, roughly 13 to both Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

While the route pairing to Altoona won’t change, what will change with the transition to the new carrier is the aircraft type that will fly the route. With the current carrier, they operate the Cessna 208 on the route, but with Boutique Air, the aircraft on the route will be the Pilatus PC-12.

The size of the aircraft won’t change much, either, as each is an eight or nine-passenger plane. The real difference is that the Cessna 208 is unpressurized, meaning it can’t fly above bad weather. The Pilatus PC-12 is a pressurized aircraft and can fly at much higher altitudes, thereby avoiding the sometimes harsh winter weather in the northeastern U.S., and is also much faster than the Cessna 208 that Southern Airways Express flies.

The contract with Boutique will run for two years, from Jan. 1, 2021 until Dec. 31, 2022, at an annual subsidy rate of $2,862,610 for the first year and $2,919,862 for the second year.

Bar Harbor, Maine (BHB)

A while back it was talked about how Bar Harbor is one of the few EAS Airports where a different airline holds the contract depending on the time of year. That deal is no more.

From July 1, 2016, until June 30, Florida-based Silver Airways held the contract during the summer months — mid-May until mid-October — and Massachusetts-based Cape Air held the contract during the off-peak winter season.

Under the new contract, the industry will see Silver Airways disappear from the Northeast and return to solely serving the Caribbean and Southeast.

Cape Air was selected for the Bar Harbor contract that will run for four-years — from Oct. 15, 2020, until Oct. 14, 2024. The carrier will fly 21 round trips per week during off-peak season from mid-October to mid-June, and 56 round trips per week during the peak season, ranging from mid-June to mid-October.

All flights from the Maine coastal city will operate to Boston’s Logan International Airport, and will be flown on the airline’s Cessna 402 0r Tecnam P2012 Traveller, both of which hold nine passengers.

The annual subsidy rate will be $3,396,988 for the first year, $3,498,898 for the second year, $3,603,865 for the third year and $3,711,981 for the fourth year.

Bradford, Pennsylvania (BFD)

The northern Pennsylvanian city of Bradford currently holds a contract with Florida-based Southern Airways Express and has operated the Cessna Caravan, another name for the Cessna 208, to Pittsburgh since November 2018.

Under the new contract, Southern Airways Express will continue to serve the city, but they will add a new destination, Dulles International Airport.

The contract will require Southern Airways Express to fly 24 round trips per week to the Pennsylvanian city, seven to Pittsburgh and 17 to Washington D.C.. All flights are scheduled to operate on the Cessna 208 Caravan.

The contract will run for two years from Nov. 1, until Oct. 31, 2022. The annual subsidy rate will be $2,483,073 for the first year and $2,557,566 for the second year.

Johnstown, Pennsylvania (JST)

This small airport in the state of Pennsylvania currently holds a contract with San Francisco-based Boutique Air for flights to Pittsburgh and Baltimore on board the carriers Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

Beginning Nov. 1, SkyWest takes over the contract and is required to operate a minimum of 12 round trip flights per week to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and/or Dulles International Airport. All the flights are scheduled to be operated onboard United Express-branded CRJ-200s.

This will be a severe blow to the San Francisco-based carrier as it operates a Northeast division maintenance hub at the airport and employs around 20 local residents. The maintenance base is not part of Boutique Air’s contract, but will likely be closed following the cessation of service to the city.

While a major blow to the Boutique employees at the maintenance base, it will be an upgrade for the traveling residents of the community as they will go from an eight-seat propeller aircraft to a 50-seat jet.

The contract will run from Nov. 1 until Oct. 31, 2023, the service will be provided at an annual subsidy rate of $3,484,020 per year.

Victoria, Texas (VCT)

The city of Victoria, located along the Gulf Coast in Texas, is the state’s only Essential Air Service city. Currently, the contract is held by San Francisco-based Boutique Air, which is set to expire on Oct. 31.

Since Nov. 1, 2018, Boutique has been contracted to fly the King Air from Victoria to both Dallas and Houston. Under the new contract, SkyWest, branded as United Express, will operate flights from this small Texan city to Houston at a minimum of 12 round-trip flights per week.

The contract will run from Nov. 1 until Oct. 31, 2023, and will be at an annual subsidy rate of $3,248,291. All flights are scheduled to be operated on the 50-passenger CRJ-200 aircraft.

This is the third EAS city that SkyWest will take from the San Francisco-based carrier. The other two being Johnstown, Penn. and Alamosa, Colo.

Airports Re-Selecting Carrier

Kirksville, Missouri (IRK)

This city is located in northeastern Missouri re-selected Massachusetts-based Cape Air as the carrier that will provide service to this community. The carrier will offer a minimum of 21-nonstop round trips per week from the Missourian city to St. Louis via the Lambert International Airport.

Flights will be on board the Cessna 402 or the airlines newly delivered Tecnam P2012 Traveller, both of which hold nine-passengers.

The contract will run from Oct. 1 until Sept. 20, 2024, at an annual subsidy rate of $2,270,960 for the first year, $2,339,088 for the second year, $2,409,261 for the third year and $2,481,539 for the fourth year.

Tupelo, Mississippi (TUP)

This city located in northeastern Mississippi is part of the Alternate EAS Program. The Alternate EAS Program differs from the traditional EAS program in the aspect that the community has a much larger say in what carrier will serve the city and to what destination.

Cities in the Alternate EAS Program also are given the grant money directly and then use it to pay airlines to fly to their respective communities, whereas in the traditional EAS program, the Department of Transportation (DOT) gives the money directly to the airline.

This contract will run for two years, from Oct. 1 until Sept. 20, 2022. The DOT will provide the city of Tupelo with a grant of up to $7,775,250 over the course of the 24-month period. The city will use the grant to pay for public charter service from the Tupelo Regional Airport to Nashville, Tenn. or an alternate medium or large hub airport that is chosen by the city.

Flights will be flown using a 30-seat Embraer E135 and will be operated by Contour Airlines.

Hattiesburg/Laurel, Mississippi (PIB) and Meridian, Mississippi (MEI)

These two cities have re-selected SkyWest to provide EAS service to their respective regions in the state of Mississippi. Both will be United Express-branded and will be operated onboard the 50-seat CRJ-200 aircraft.

Flights from both cities will be operated to George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston at a minimum of 12 round trips a week per-city. Both contracts will run from Nov. 1 until Oct. 31, 2023. Hattiesburg/Laurel will be flown at an annual subsidy rate of $3,648,856 per year, and Meridian will sit at an annual subsidy rate of $3,322,219 per year.

Joey Gerardi
Joey Gerardi
Related Stories

New FedEx Facility Opens in Southern California as Cargo Volume Soars

After two years of work, a new 251,000 square foot FedEx Express complex with nine wide-body aircraft gates, 14 feeder…

Denver International Adds First New Gates in Expansion

Today, Denver International Airport unveiled four new gates in concourse B, the first addition from a long-awaited expansion project to…

Danke Tegel: End of an Era for Long-Time Berlin Airport

Sunday, Nov. 8 marked the end of an era in Berlin, Germany, as Tegel Airport, the main airport which has…