Mesa Air Group has been selected as Merced Municipal Airport's new passenger airline, the Department of Transportation announced Wednesday.
Mesa -- which will operate as either US Airways or America West -- beat out two other carriers to win a $1,599,207 government subsidy to provide Merced's passenger service for the next two years.
Airport Manager Lloyd Partin said he was pleased with the DOT's decision.
"It gives people just an amazing amount of options out of here that wouldn't have been available with the other carriers that bid," said Partin. "We would have been happy with any service the DOT chose, but I think this provides the best opportunity for the community's growth."
Mesa will provide two daily non-stop round-trip flights to Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport and two other round-trip flights to McCarran with stops in Visalia, said Hartz.
The schedule isn't final yet, but one flight will be an early morning departure and one will be a late-night arrival, said Hartz.
One-way tickets to Las Vegas will sell for $99, $129, and $149, said Hartz.
Mesa's partnership with US Airways and America West means passengers will be able to buy tickets online at the US Airways Web site. US Airways and America West merged in May 2005.
"Obviously we're just very excited about the opportunity to serve Merced and the whole region," said Mesa's Senior Planning Analyst Jeffrey Hartz. "It's a great opportunity for us to grow our service and for the community to grow the economic development of the airport."
Mesa hopes to start taking off from Merced's runway in early November, said Hartz.
Until then, Scenic Airlines will continue flights out of Merced to and from North Las Vegas Airport.
Scenic announced in May that it was shutting down its scheduled passenger flight business and going back to flying sightseeing tours.
With the subsidy for Merced's passenger service then up for grabs, Castle Airport announced that it wanted to be considered as a possible host for Merced's passenger flights.
Local businesses including Foster Farms, Save Mart Supermarkets, Riverside Motorsports Park, Dole Packaged Foods Company, and the Atwater Elementary School District all wrote letters to the DOT supporting Castle as a choice for Merced's passenger service.
But none of the airlines competing for the federal subsidy submitted proposals to serve Castle.
Merced Airport Manager Partin said Mesa's flights at Merced Municipal will help bring local air travel options up to the level they were at five years ago when SkyWest Airlines provided flights.
SkyWest closed its Merced operation after Sept. 11, 2001.
"(Mesa) will provide access to the national air transportation system here that's been missing from the community since 2001," said Partin.
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