Dec. 26--Flights to DFW prove to be a success for G.C. Regional Airport.
Flights to DFW prove to be a success for G.C. Regional Airport.
Garden City is recommending to the U.S. Department of Transportation to award American Eagle Essential Air Service status for another two years at Garden City Regional Airport.
EAS is a federal program that guarantees small communities maintain commercial air service. A subsidy is provided by the government to the airlines that keeps the service from operating at a loss.
On Nov. 1, the U.S. Department of Transportation requested proposals from airlines to serve Garden City, Dodge City, Liberal, Great Bend and Hays.
American Airlines was the sole proposal received for Garden City service, requesting a subsidy of $1,445,172 per year to continue providing two daily roundtrip flights to Dallas/Fort Worth using a 50-seat regional jet operated by its regional brand, American Eagle.
Unlike two years ago, Garden City won't need to do some maneuvering to land its preferred airline.
"It's customary for the community to identify which proposal it supports," Matt Allen, city manager, said. "You might remember from the last go round when the community had the choice between three service providers, the two that were maybe the most realistic were Great Lakes and American Eagle."
Two years ago, the city preferred the American Eagle bid, but it wasn't the low bid. The city had to make its case to the DOT for the higher cost, and also needed to make up a deficit between the American Eagle bid and the low-bid proposal.
The city applied for $250,000 through the Affordable Airfare Program through the state and also supplied a local match of $83,000 per year, something that won't be required this time around.
"Of course, they're going to be drawn to the low bid provider, but they do take in community input and try to help facilitate ways to solve the funding problem if there's a gap in funding between the low bid and the preferred service," Allen said. "We did that last time around. This time, thankfully, we have one proposal. The long and short of it is, we only have one proposal, so our job's pretty easy."
Rachelle Powell, aviation director, said the EAS subsidy this time is a lot cheaper than it was two years ago, and gets the airport closer to its goal of becoming self-sufficient.
"Two years ago, the original proposal was for $3.2 million," Powell said. "Our intent two years ago was to get off the Essential Air Service in the next round. We're not at that point yet. But we've dramatically come off a lot of the subsidy that was required initially. Hopefully, in the next two-year period it can wean us off the federal subsidy."
The new subsidy is $1.44 million each year for a two-year period paid by the federal government. EAS funding doesn't impact the airport's budget.
Powell said the new two-year EAS designation begins April 1, 2014, and will have a seamless transition. American Eagle still will be the city's carrier, offering the same service of daily flights with a regional jet.
American requested the flexibility to use a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft in addition to its 44-seat Embraer regional jets when needed, and also asked to waive the required 120 days notice to terminate service.
The company indicated it doesn't foresee it to be an issue and plans to continue developing the Garden City market, but wanted the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
"It's not something they look forward to or expect, it's just something they put in all their proposals for air service," Powell said.
If for some reason American decided to leave Garden City, the DOT would seek new bids to provide service here.
Last week, the Garden City Commission approved going with American Eagle for EAS, and acknowledged and credited the assistance of Dodge City two years ago to help bring the airline to Garden City.
DOT is paying Tennessee-based RegionsAir $1.23 million a year to provide 12 flights a week to St. Louis on 19-seat planes.
For the second time in a year Merced Municipal Airport is shopping for a new airline to provide passenger flights
Each filled about 66 percent of available seats in October, according to the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport Authority.
Passenger traffic at the airport has been in a free fall for more than a decade.