Even with the fear off shutting down, one local airport is planning on adding new flights.
On May 27, the DuBois airport’s board voted unanimously to switch carriers for a two-year-contract starting in four months.
This comes as the future of their Essential Air Service is still up in the air. The federal DOT will make the final decision.
We have more on what they’ll be considering.
At $3 million a year, the plan from Southern Airways Express would cost the DOT more than Silver Airways, with more flights.
“It’ll be six flights a day. Three to Baltimore and three to Pittsburgh,” says Southern Airways Express co-founder and chief marketing officer Keith Sisson.
Instead of 33 seats, passengers would see 9-seat Cessna single-engine turboprops, with $25 tickets to Pittsburgh, and about $48 to BWI near Baltimore, Sisson said at the airport authority meeting on May 27.
“I think the bigger the plane, the more comfortable I am, but at that kind of a savings, that would work for me,” says Linda Romeo, a passenger from Treasure Lake.
“I like that because it only takes about an hour to get to Pittsburgh by airplane,” says David Myers, a passenger from Clearfield.
The DOT wants to drop Essential Air Service in DuBois, Altoona, and Johnstown. But in 2014, the first round of cuts stalled.
“There were 13 airports that received it, 12 requested the waivers, and 12 were granted waivers,” says DuBois Regional Airport manager Bob Shaffer.
Southern says the DOT knows regional airlines’ struggles.
“Pilot shortages, for example. We had a terrible winter here just a couple of years ago,” says Sisson. “So, they’re going to be looking for reasons of why the problems that have taken place in the past are going to change in the future. We think we are presenting a great argument.”
Silver bid $1.3 million with two flights per weekday, but officials said during the meeting that they’re not very available, don’t advertise, and their planes run late.
“There were some issues with reliability and they admit to that,” says Shaffer.
“Twice it was cancelled and on both occasions it was not the weather. They said there’s some mechanical problems,” says Dr. Madhavan Pillai, a passenger from Washington, D.C.
Pillai’s 10:30 a.m. flight, was late, then cancelled, leaving him waiting four hours on May 27.
One time, he remembers that a van was available.
“They offered it to me, but I took my rental car and drove from here to Washington, D.C.,” says Pillai.
“And I can’t go home because I had someone drop me off, so I’m just here for the rest of the morning, but typically they’re on time,” says Romeo.
The goal now is to get more flyers, enough so the subsidy is under $200 a passenger, down from the current $342, Shaffer said.
“We’re trying to give them a viable, reasonable, local alternative to get out of their automobiles and into an airplane,” says Shaffer.
Southern, a three-year-old company based near Memphis, is also bidding on Altoona and Johnstown’s new airport contracts, and will unveil its name on June 28 in Altoona after buying Sun Airways Express, Sisson said.