Airline offers 30-seat plane for Merced

Vision Airlines is hoping that size matters to local air travelers.

The airline -- one of three competing for the federal subsidy that funds Merced's passenger flights -- will showcase its 30-seat Dornier 328 turboprop at Merced Municipal Airport today.

The other airlines vying for the federal subsidy, Great Lakes Aviation and Mesa Air Group, both use 19-seat planes.

Community opinion is one of the factors the Department of Transportation will consider when it decides which airline wins the subsidy. The subsidy is part of the government's Essential Air Service program, which helps provide passenger flights in rural communities.

Aircraft size isn't the only difference among the three airlines.

Las Vegas-based Vision Air would offer two round-trip flights out of Merced daily -- one to North Las Vegas and one to Long Beach. Both flights would stop in Visalia.

Great Lakes would run two daily nonstops, from both Merced and Visalia, to McCarran International Airport, the larger hub airport in Las Vegas.

Mesa Air Group, the airline that now provides passenger flights at both Visalia and Merced, wouldn't change its existing schedule if it wins.