Airport Authority eyes jet service | News, Sports, Jobs


MARTINSBURG — The Altoona-Blair County Airport Authority voted unanimously to recommend another essential air service agreement with Contour Airlines for subsidized passenger flights.

The alternative EAS agreement, as opposed to the traditional EAS, will allow for easier negotiation between the airport and the airline, officials said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation must approve any deal, though airport authority officials predict it will go through without any problems.

Under the Contour proposal, the airline would provide service with 30-seat jets.

The new planes will have a handful of desirable features, said airport manager Tracy Plessinger, including increased comfort for passengers and the ability to fly higher and faster.

“It’s a lot more what people are used to rather than a smaller plane,” said Plessinger. “It’s a totally different experience.”

“This is a tremendous benefit to our county’s transportation system,” Blair County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Joe Hurd said. “Being able to fly a 30-passenger jet instead of an eight-passenger turboprop creates opportunities for business, economic development, travel and tourism that did not exist here before. it changes things.

Boutique Air has served the airport with daily flights to Pittsburgh and Baltimore since January 2021, when it resumed subsidized flights previously operated by Southern Airways for six years.

The authority recommended the change in May 2020 based on Boutique’s use of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft with a pressurized cabin, baggage and ticketing agreements with United and American airlines and promises to implement place a car rental service.

Boutique informed the federal government in February that due to escalating costs, it wanted to end its service contract at the Altoona-Blair County airport, with the option of re-bidding for a grant. over $2.91 million currently approved.

In May, the airport had 935 passengers.

“We are not unhappy with Boutique’s service,” said Plessinger. “It’s an excellent service; it’s just that the jet provides much better service.

The authority wanted a proposed deal with Contour to include the service in Charlotte, however, it misses the necessary $5-5.5 million.

When the U.S. Department of Transportation re-tendered the Essential Air Service contract, Boutique submitted a bid to serve Altoona Airport with 26 roundtrip flights per week – to Pittsburgh and Baltimore-Washington airports – at 4 .28 million for the first year and 4.36 dollars. million for the second year.

Southern also submitted an offer, with 26 roundtrip flights to Pittsburgh and Dulles Airport in Washington, DC, at $2.73 million for the first year and $2.8 million for the second year.

Switching carriers is not a matter to be taken lightly, said Authority member Gary Orner.

“We all take airline selection very seriously,” said Orner. “We took a lot of time to make sure we were correctly suggesting to the DOT which airline would be best. It’s not something we do in an hour; it’s something that’s been going on for months and we’re trying to figure it out. We are all very serious about doing the right thing.

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.



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