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JetBlue Inches Closer to Essential Air Service

The airline is potentially nearing its first EAS contract.

A JetBlue Embraer ERJ-190 in the airline’s Blueprint livery. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

Back at the end of February 2024, AirlineGeeks reported that JetBlue had put in a proposal for its first-ever Essential Air Service (EAS) contract. Now, almost two months later, the airline is closer to the proposal possibly becoming a reality.

Presque Isle, Maine, which is known to have one of the most expensive EAS subsidies in the lower 48 states given its location further away from a larger hub than most, is now getting closer to the selection of the community’s EAS airline for the next couple of years.

With the community comments now posted online, it is interesting to see the breakdown of what the community thinks of each airline and how they stack up against each other.

Four airlines submitted bids for Presque Isle this time around; American, Boutique Air, JetBlue, and United. The number of comments is significant with over 150 being submitted to the DOT for consideration of the next airline contract. However, several of the comments come from people with identical last names meaning that some are likely different family members within the same household.

Community Comments

Boutique and American are essentially non-factors and will not be chosen for the contract. Boutique didn’t get a single community comment in favor of them, while American did get one, but it is also the most expensive option with the yearly subsidy requested being over $17,000,000.

Silver Airways got a single community comment in favor of them, but the carrier never submitted a proposal so it is not getting selected. US Airways also got one community comment in favor of it, but given the airline has been gone for roughly a decade now, this is most likely an error at the fault of the person submitting the comment.

AG silver

A Silver Airways ATR 42-600 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

The two main competitors are JetBlue and United, with United getting many more comments with over 100 in favor of it getting the contract. JetBlue got just under 50 comments in favor of it. Comment emails from people vary in length and have anything from a very in-depth review of why they believe a specific airline should be chosen, to a play-by-play of a bad personal experience with a certain airline, to a very simple singular sentence saying “Please don’t choose them” with no explanation as to why.

For JetBlue, positives given were; “it’s a bigger aircraft,” “they have nicer planes,” and an overwhelming number of comments in regards to the Boston flight being good for patients in northern Maine needing to get to Boston’s world-class medical facilities. Some negatives for JetBlue include the lack of connections out of Boston compared to United out of Newark, as well as only having one flight a day.

United had the same comments, including a variety of personal experience stories and then some patterns throughout the over 100 comments. Some of United’s positives mentioned in the comments included; “more connecting opportunities than Boston” and “two flights a day.” Some of the negatives mentioned included the weather in Newark, which could theoretically be the same for Boston, and a simple one-sentence statement in an email that read “Newark sucks.”

There are also a number of comments in favor of United that want the carrier for the simple reason of already having United MileagePlus accounts, and not wanting to start over from scratch with an airline points account.

While United does have significantly more comments in favor of them, JetBlue does have one big name on its side: the city of Presque Isle which are the elected officials of the city.

The DOT has been known to side with the airport board, or the city if they don’t have an airport council, even if more individual citizens want a different airline than the elected officials of the city. JetBlue is still the cheaper option by almost $3,000,000 per year than United.

For example, the DOT selected Cape Air for Manistee, Mich.’s EAS contract back in 2020. More individual people wanted Boutique but the city council wanted Cape so that was selected. At the same time, the DOT doesn’t always side with the city if one of the bids is less expensive. In Watertown, S.D., the city council wanted SkyWest and so did most of the individual citizens living there, but Denver Air Connection was cheaper so that is what was chosen by the DOT.

Cape Air’s brand new Tecnam P2012 Traveller in Manistee, Mich. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Joey Gerardi)

So, it is anyone’s contract to win as there are no consistencies for every single EAS proposal as the decision can be affected by different situations every year. With the current contract ending on May 31, 2024, a decision needs to be made soon and is usually already done by this point.

Joey Gerardi

Author

  • Joey Gerardi

    Joe has always been interested in planes, for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Central New York during the early 2000s when US Airways Express turboprops ruled the skies. Being from a non-aviation family made it harder for him to be around planes and would only spend about three hours a month at the airport. He was so excited when he could drive by himself and the first thing he did with the license was get ice cream and go plane spotting for the entire day. When he has the time (and money) he likes to take spotting trips to any location worth a visit. He’s currently enrolled at Western Michigan University earning a degree in Aviation Management and Operations.

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