Boutique Air Outlines Plan For Service At Jamestown Airport
Boutique Air is betting that quality of service, not destination, is the reason other airlines have failed in the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown.
The company’s Essential Air Service application to the federal Transportation Department would have Jamestown flights connecting to the Pittsburgh International Airport, a destination used by Sun Air. The 16-page document lays out Boutique Air’s proposal to succeed where other air providers in Jamestown have failed. The joint application from the county and Boutique Air includes admissions from the county that more must be done to make sure Boutique Air, if approved as an Essential Air Service provider, meets the federal government’s goals for the Essential Air Service program.
“Recent experience with EAS-contracted commercial air service has revealed to the political and business leadership of this community that reliable and sustainable air carrier service is not assured under any service delivery model or externally-managed federal program,” the application states.
“Rather, it requires a deliberateness of purpose, commitment from and continuous engagement with stakeholders (particularly customer feedback), and disciplined execution of sound business fundamentals. We are approaching this joint proposal with Boutique Air confident in the successes that both parties have achieved in the past and mindful of the errors that led to the precipitous loss of traveler confidence and resulting termination of the EAS contract with Southern Airways. The proposed service delivery model offers an elevated assurance of financial viability and genuine value to the community because of this partnership.”
Boutique estimates costs of $2,800,229 a year and earn revenue of $439,757 from an estimated 12,564 passengers paying $35 per flight. The federal government’s subsidy would be $2,500,484 in the first year and $2,5462,996 the second year. Boutique proposes to earn profit of $140,011. Boutique Air also plans to spend $20,000 in advertising to market its service to the community, while the county plans to leverage its promotional abilities as well.
Boutique Air’s passenger estimate will likely be an important figure for the federal government because the Jamestown airport had been in violation of two tenets of the Essential Air Service program: the requirement that airports that receive EAS subsidies average 10 passengers per day and the the “$200 Rule,” which stipulates that a community’s average Essential Air Service subsidy be less than $200 per rider.
It is no secret that the Jamestown airport had struggled to meet the 10 passenger a day rule for the past several years, but it was also one of the most expensive airports in the Essential Air Service program on a subsidy per rider basis at $573 per rider, according to an analysiss by Rachel Y. Yang for the Congressional Research Service in March 2017. Yang’s analysis showed only the Altoona, Pa., airport at a subsidy of $642 per rider, and the Beckley, W.V., airport, with an average subsidy of $599 per rider, were more expensive than Jamestown. Boutique Air must meet its estimated passenger count to meet either rule; the 12,564 passenger projection equals about 34 per day while just barely meeting the $200 Rule with an average subsidy cost per rider of $199.02.
An example Boutique Air provided to the federal government is the airport in Merced, Calif. which had seen ridership ranging between about 200 to 700 riders a month before Boutique took over to between 1,100 and 1,700 a month in the roughly one year Boutique Air has been the airport’s Essential Air Service provider. Boutique also called attention in its application to its experience in
“Boutique Air’s past performance and current capacity to successfully operate an EAS program route between JHW and PIT are clearly articulated in the narrative,” Boutique Air’s proposal to the federal Transportation Department states. “As an EAS contract operator, Boutique’s success in restoring financial viability to distressed routes is remarkable. As airport sponsors and experienced business owners, the leadership of this community recognizes that Boutique’s management acumen alone cannot restore viability to an EAS contract route between JHW and PIT.”
READY TO BEGIN QUICKLY
County officials are proposing to rent the office, ticket counter, gate usage and baggage handling facilities for the cost of operations, waive landing fees for the first year of the contract, make hangar space and other facilities for aircraft maintenance available at cost, offer discounted rates for refueling and deicing, use county government to create and promote commercial air services at the airport.
Flights could begin in between 60 and 90 days of Boutique Air’s receipt of an Essential Air Service designation.
“Chautauqua County and Boutique Air are prepared to execute this proposal now,” read the letter from Borrello and Simpson. “The plan before you is one that Chautauqua County leadership, our business and community constituencies, airport stakeholders, and Boutique Air are prepared to resource and implement immediately. While this plan is devised to satisfy current needs and is founded on contemporary wherewithal, it is also a cornerstone for our future growth within a regional economy and a vital link to new and emerging markets.”
Headquartered in San Francisco, Boutique Air has been in operation since 2007. The airline began by flying fire surveillance missions for the U.S. Forestry Service and Bureau of Land Management before adding air charter services across the west coast with a fleet of Pilatus and Cessna aircraft. In July 2012, Boutique Air applied for commuter operating authority from the Department of Transportation and began flying scheduled service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in January 2014. On April 22, 2014, Boutique Air received its first EAS contract when the federal Transportation Department selected the airline to provide service between Clovis and Dallas-Fort Worth. Boutique now has 17 Essential Air Service contracts and operates out of 30 different airports. Its newest Essential Air Service contract is Dodge City, Kan., which started in January.