New York-based JetBlue Airways has proposed its first Essential Air Service (EAS) contract. Over the past couple of years, we…
Advanced Air to Operate U.S.’s Longest Dornier 328 Flight
The airline is adding two new routes, including one of the longest for a rare aircraft type.
Hawthorne, Calif.-based Advanced Air has unveiled another round of expansion, bringing with it two more cities to its network, including Crescent City and Oakland, Calif.; one of which is an Essential Air Service (EAS) community, and the other becomes the new longest Dornier 328Jet route in the United States.
The airline has yet to make a formal announcement of its new community but has already put the flights up for sale on the airline’s website among other booking sites. Crescent City, Calif. is one of three EAS airports in the state of California and actually falls into the “Alternate Essential Air Service” AEAS category. These AEAS contracts work in virtually the same way as typical EAS, with the only difference being that in AEAS, the community is awarded the grant and they pay the carrier for the air service directly instead of everything having to go through the government for approval, as well as the fact the communities have much more influence of the airline schedules and timing.
Advanced will now hold two of the three EAS cities in California, with the carrier already having the contract in Merced. This will also be Advanced Air’s first EAS contract it holds with service being operated on its 30-seat Dornier 328Jet, as the other three contracts are for the eight-seat King Air or Pilatus PC-12.
Longest 328Jet Flight
The airline will begin service to Crescent City on March 17, 2024, with the current carrier offering services here, Contour Air, operating its last flight on the evening of March 16. In addition to offering services to Oakland like Contour, Advanced will also offer less than daily flights to its headquarters in Hawthorne, which will become the longest Dornier 328Jet flight in the country, at 630 miles.
AirlineGeeks had a chance to talk with Ryan Cooley, who is the director of the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority in Crescent City, and ask him a few questions about this new upcoming service with Advanced Air.
AirlineGeeks (AG): The current Alternate EAS contract term is up in nine months [Sept. 30, 2024], so why switch carriers now versus waiting until the term is up in less than a year and having them bid with a new contract?
Ryan Cooley (RC): So it was really all about growth potential opportunity, Advanced Air came up to visit us in 2023 just to express interest in our area. They have a lot of customers that fly out of the LA Basin on their aircraft, the 30-seat regional jet, to Mammoth, California, and a lot of outdoor enthusiasts. They thought perhaps they could tap into the Border Coast, Redwoods, and camping, and hiking region for the summer months as well as year-round. After a lot of thought and deliberation, as well as discussions with our board members at Border Coast Regional Airport Authority, on January 3, 2024 special session was held, and after months of discussion and research unanimously voted to terminate the existing air service with Contour Airlines and enter into a new air service agreement with Advanced Air to help promote growth and opportunity. Contour Airlines has been a good air service provider to Oakland, but, as you’ve seen over the years and especially last year their service has been focused on expanding in the Midwest and especially the East Coast.
So, from being forward-thinking, and thinking about our future and potential opportunities for the airport, the combination of being able to get flights not only to Oakland but now to the LA Basin. Advanced Air will provide service to the LA Basin as well as Oakland, we will be able to tap into more opportunities for tourism and bring people up here to our region, to allow our business travelers, and our residents to travel down to the [LA Basin]. We actually had a leakage and retention study done back in the fall by an aviation consulting company here, and what we found out is from Port Orford, Ore. to Klamath, Calif., which is our catchment area along the coast for potential air travel, 64% of the air travelers from our region drive over to Medford, Ore. to get to LA. So, if we can tap into that, it’s just more opportunities for us to grow our enplanements and to get over 10,000 enplanements a year again, and to bring more tourism here, as well as business travelers. So that’s why, it’s all about opportunity, growth, and the potential it can bring to the region from an economic standpoint.
(AG): What is the daily flight offering going to look like, split between Oakland and Hawthorne, Calif. (LA Basin?)
(RC): We are in a unique situation currently, just the way the air service grant was set up and drafted before I got here as Airport Manager in 2020. The grant was enough to provide roughly seven round trips to Oakland a week and so that’s what Contour currently does, one flight in and one flight out a day, except in the summer where they occasionally add another flight on Fridays and Sundays. But, with the current grant amount right now we are looking at seven round trips a week, but what Advanced Air has proposed is between six and eight round-trip flights per week to Oakland, based on seasonality, and then two flights a week to Hawthorne-Los Angeles for the beginning of their partnership with us.
They have to finish out the existing grant which goes to September 30, 2024, using the grant amount that is left, then when the new air service agreement is initiated and the grant is awarded on October 1, 2024, they will operate under the same grant amount that we are currently in, for year four and year one of the new grant. But we plan on negotiating with the DOT for grant years two, three, and four of the new grant term for increases in those amounts, in order to get the amount necessary to do what Advanced Air is proposing; 12 round trips a week to Oakland, and five round trips a week to Hawthorne. But that wouldn’t happen until October of 2025, as we need to work with the grant amount that we are currently given, but the main goal is keeping the current offering we currently have, the seven weekly flights to Oakland, and then adding the additional flights to Hawthorne-Los Angeles as a bonus.
(AG): Contour does codeshare and baggage agreements with American Airlines, but Advanced doesn’t have any agreements currently with anyone. Does this concern you at all or are you not worried about this?
(RC): So, since COVID, American Airlines pulled Oakland, so when our passengers fly to Oakland on Contour unfortunately there are no codeshares or agreements for our passengers to take advantage of anyways, so they go to Oakland on Contour and have to pick up their [checked] bags and go to another airline to recheck them, or just take carryon bags. So, nothing is really going to change in the short term anyway, as they can’t even take advantage of the codeshares and interlines, even with Contour that they do offer since American doesn’t fly to Oakland. My goal is to work closely with Advanced Air and to discuss with and encourage them, which they have discussed in the past, they are open to interlines, with one of the prominent airlines in Oakland at some point in the future.
(AG): Is the service out of Crescent City going to be sterile or non-sterile, given Oakland has TSA screening and Hawthorne doesn’t?
(RC): So Advanced Air has their AOSSP, which is their security program, so we will be flying into Oakland and out of Oakland sterile, TSA will be staying here, and nothing will change in the aspect of our Oakland flights. What brings a new piece of the puzzle is the fact that Hawthorne is a non-sterile airport, I have already sent out a request to the TSA with our proposed schedule, to see if a precedence has been set in the past or if there is a possibility since they are here anyways to screen our passengers out of Crescent City bound for Hawthorne. That way the airline and airport can continue to use the boarding room holding gate which requires passing security to use it, so they don’t have to use an alternate route to get out to the aircraft because of the non-sterile aspect. There are ways to work around it, but we are working with the TSA to make sure we follow every rule and aspect of their security policy.
Advanced Air has continued to grow and now operates a pretty sizable operation for a carrier of its size. With the addition of Crescent City, it will have 13 destinations (11 year-round, two seasonal), and will now offer three to four nonstop destinations just from its home base in Hawthorne, Calif. depending on the time of the year.
It will also give aviation enthusiasts two more routes and opportunities to fly on the rare Dornier 328Jet, a 30-seat aircraft that until a few years ago was fading away from the commercial skies of the United States, but now has a strong presence not only in Advanced Air’s fleet, but for Denver Air Connection as well.
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