Thursday afternoon, the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority opted to reject proposals by Boutique Air and Great Lake Airlines and choose Contour Airlines as its Alternate Essential Air Service provider. Airport Director Matthew Leitner gave a presentation to the board, noting that the airport had contracted with Voltaire Aviation consulting to review the three proposals and submit an overview.
The report noted the benefits and drawbacks of each airline’s proposal.
Contour offered flights to Oakland, while Great Lakes offered flights to Sacramento and Boutique offered flights to Portland and Oakland on a single engine, 9-seat turboprop plane.
Leitner said that after consideration, airport staff recommended Contour, not for their jet airplane, but because it would provide the best service to Crescent City. He said Contour will fly to Oakland Airport, which offers the best connectivity and lowest fares. He said with the service to Oakland, the passenger numbers would likely return to what was seen when the airport used Skywest Airlines.
The report called Sacramento a poor connecting hub, with less than half the connecting flights of Portland. Higher fares were also cited.
Staff reports said Contour was also recommended for its competitive pricing of $75 to Oakland, public desire to travel to the Bay Area, an airplane suited for high passenger volume, (30 seats) and better service to people with limited mobility. It also noted that the size of the plane will allow the airport to retain its status as a 139 Class 1 airport with dedicated airport rescue and firefighting services, versus downgrading to a lower classification.
Letters of community support for each airline were attached to the staff reports and can be found online at flycrescentcity.org under agendas.
Airport program manager Susan Daugherty said the approval of Contour’s Alternate Essential Air Service would mean the board has to reject the two EAS proposals, apply for a grant from the Federal Aviation Administration and enter into a contract directly with Contour.
Daugherty said time is of the essence when it comes to submitting the grant application. She added later that letters of support from the board, county supervisors, City Council, and the community will also be considered by the Department of Transportation and will give the application a better chance of approval.
Airport Board member Tom Huxley questioned the timing of the applications and the extended deadline. He said that by the time Contour submitted its proposal, Boutique and Great Lakes’ proposals had been out 10 days, giving Contour time to read them. Leitner said later that the application extension was done with DOT approval and that neither of the other two airlines protested the extension.
The vote authorized the chair to sign a letter to the DOT recommending Contour and rejecting the others, and to direct staff to prepare an AEAS grant application. At the close of the meeting, Daugherty said the grant application process could take 2.5 to four months.
In the meantime, PenAir, which recently filed for bankruptcy, is under orders to remain at the airport until another provider takes over.