Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

A recent proposal for Alternate Essential Air Service from Contour Airlines, if chosen, could bring 12 non-stop weekly flights to Oakland from Crescent City on a 30-seat jet.

Boutique Air and Great Lakes Aviation Ltd. also submitted proposals for EAS service using propeller-driven passenger planes.

Border Coast Regional Airport Authority Director Matt Leitner explained that Contour Airlines’ proposal would constitute Alternate EAS, meaning instead of using federal money, the airline would be paid through federal grant funding. BCRAA would enter into a contract directly with the airline and pay for it with grant money.

According to the DOT website, Alternate Essential Air Service is designed to allow communities to forego their EAS for a prescribed amount of time in exchange for receiving a grant to spend in a variety of ways that might better suit their individual needs.

With EAS, the Department of Transportation subsidizes smaller airlines.

The airport authority would have to file an application with the Department of Transportation to use AEAS. Leitner said if the board feels it cannot accept either of the EAS proposals, the AEAS would give another option.

He said the board would have to reject the two EAS proposals from Boutique and Great Lakes in order to approve Contour’s proposal.

Jet setting

Crescent City has been served by twin-engine propeller aircraft but that could change if Contour’s proposal is ultimately accepted.

Contour Airlines proposes to use an Embraer ERJ-135 regional jet airplane, capable of taking 30 passengers to a cruising speed of Mach .78 (514.8 mph).

While the jet is faster than propeller-driven planes, such as what is currently used by PenAir — the SAAB 340 cruises at 300 mph — Contour officials say the length of the Crescent City runway will pose no issues for takeoff and landing.

Great Lakes proposes to use a 30-seat turbo propeller plane, as well as a 19- and 9-seat turboprop.

Regarding Contour’s proposal, “Average fare would be $75 one-way and the aircraft is a 37-seat platform configured for 30-seats, offering additional comfort and convenience,” Leitner wrote. “The ERJ-135 is a new-generation regional jet used by American and United and is still in production.”

Contour’s website said its flights are bookable through major online travel agencies and other systems used by travel agents.

“Contour Airlines provides AEAS in a few markets and, though new to the scene, appears to have proven successful,” Leitner said in an email. “Though new to AEAS, Contour has been operating for 35 years.”

By phone Friday, Contour CEO Matt Chaifetz said Crescent City was attractive to his airline for its opportunity to serve the number one market in the U.S., the Bay Area. He said his company has the right planes for the market as well as the right record in terms of reliability and financial stability.

Leitner said he expects representatives of all three airlines to attend the Oct. 5 BCRAA board meeting. In light of the new proposal, the deadline for public comment has been extended to Oct. 12.

All three proposals are available for review on the BCRAA website at http://flycrescentcity.com/ under the public documents link.

Reach Tony Reed at treed@triplicate.com

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