Friday, February 8, 2013

Carlsbad city panel chooses Boutique Air for flights into Carlsbad

The city of Carlsbad Airport Committee has told the Federal Department of Transportation that it prefers Boutique Air as the city's air service provider.

The committee, appointed by Mayor Dale Janway, met Tuesday to draft the city's comments and state a preference for one of the three air carriers that submitted bids to the DOT. The city's comments to the DOT were due on Thursday.

For the last six years the city's air service has been provided by Pacific Wings, doing business in New Mexico as New Mexico Airlines. The contract is due to expire in May.

The federal Essential Air Service Program provides a subsidy to air carriers that provide air service to small and rural communities.

In addition to New Mexico Airlines' bid to continue air service between Carlsbad and Albuquerque, the DOT received two other bids that included California-based Boutique Air and Sovereign Air, based in the Midwest.

Sovereign Air has not been present at the committee's recent public meetings.

Janway said the committee worked "really hard" to arrive at its recommendation that has the city's approval.

"I am excited about the prospect of having flights from Carlsbad to Dallas. It is a good hub," he said.

"We have to do what we think is best for Carlsbad," Janway said.

Daniel Helland, Boutique Air project manager, said in addition to providing pressurized planes, his company will also staff the Cavern City Airport with customer service agents and a station manager.

Two air craft will also be based in Carlsbad.

He said flights to Albuquerque are projected from $49 to $99.

Flights to Dallas would range from $69 to $129. He said the airline is working to secure a private facility at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport with shuttle service to the main terminal. In addition, rental car service would also be available for passengers who are staying in Dallas.

Helland said he contacted the DOT's analyst Thursday after it received the city's comments to see when the agency will issue its decision.

"I was told that normally, they issue their decision a month before the June 1 start date of the new essential air service contract. However, I was told it could be earlier. I am hoping it will be within the next two weeks," he said.

He said in the mean time, his airline will continue moving ahead with its plans as an air service provider for Carlsbad.

"We will go as far as we can get without signing lease agreements. Getting the EAS bid is not a sure thing. Anything could happen," he said. Roswell offers flights to the Dallas-Fort Worth hub while Hobbs offers flights to Houston. 


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