Friday, December 19, 2014

Air Choice One numbers looking good so far • Mason City Municipal Airport (KMCW), Iowa

ARIAN SCHUESSLER, The Globe Gazette 
Passengers board a recent Air Choice One flight out of the Mason City Municipal airport.




MASON CITY | Air Choice One is off to a good start in Mason City, according to airport Manager Pam Osgood.

The airline began operations in Mason City on Nov. 17. 

"In the figures I've seen so far, we had 145 enplanements and 156 deplanements, and that's not for the full month," she said. "According to my calculations we averaged 18 passengers per day. That is a great start." 

Air Choice One provides four flights a day to and from O'Hare Field in Chicago, plus weekend flights.

Its launch in Mason City stopped a long dry spell in commercial air service. Great Lakes, which served the airport for two years, suspended operations in February, citing a pilot shortage.

The local airport commission, working through the U.S. Department of Transportation, sought requests from other airlines twice, after rejecting the first proposals it received.

The commission settled on Air Choice One in September and it started up in Mason City two months later.

Passenger levels are important to the airport for two reasons. It receives a subsidy from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) based on the number of passengers. In years past it has received $1 million for surpassing the 10,000-passenger threshold, but has not come near that in recent years.

Secondly, the federal government provides Essential Air Service (EAS) funding to help airlines subsidize service to smaller airports — as long as passenger traffic warrants it.

The Mason City Airport saw a 50 percent decrease in passengers between 2008 and 2012, due in part to inconsistent service provided by Great Lakes.

Osgood said the airport had a viable 12,000 passengers a year as recently as 2011, and she believes reliable service from Air Choice One will help see those levels return.

“So far the planes have been full, so we are optimistic,” Osgood said. “We feel we can get back to that status again. We need to demonstrate they can be successful here, and we think we can.”

She said, as always, the key to success will be the support of the North Iowa public in utilizing the air service.

- Original article can be found at: http://globegazette.com

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