Friday, June 16, 2017

Five airlines seek to serve Quincy Regional Airport (KUIN)

QUINCY -- Five airlines are vying for a federal contract to serve Quincy Regional Airport, and some of the proposals would offer flights to Chicago as well as St. Louis.

The U.S. Department of Transportation opened bids Thursday and sent them to Quincy city officials for consideration.

"We're looking over the specifics of all the proposals," Mayor Kyle Moore said Friday. "We want to find a good match for the community."

Cape Air, which has been providing flights between Quincy and St. Louis since late 2009, has submitted two proposals.

The first would offer 24 weekly flights to St. Louis Lambert International Airport and 12 weekly flights to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The combined annual subsidy costs would be $3.14 million under a four-year contract.

Cape Air also is offering a continuation of its 36 weekly flights to St. Louis at an annual cost of $2.66 million for a four-year contract.

"Flights to Chicago are something the community has asked for," Moore said. "Our business travelers say they would have more flexibility if they take flights through Chicago."

In addition, Cape Air points out that it is updating its fleet of aircraft. The Cessna 402C, which has been manufactured since the 1980s, is now used by the airline. They are being replaced with Tecnam P2012 aircraft, a twin-engine turboprop which requires less take off and landing room, and offers more interior space for passengers.

The airline also operates a downtown Quincy ticket office and is seeking American Airlines branding in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Air Choice One of St. Louis offered five proposals for Quincy flights. Some involve only flights to St. Louis, others offer only flights to Chicago and three would offer a mix of flights to both destinations.

In its proposal, Air Choice One said the cost of 36 weekly round trips between Quincy and St. Louis would be $2.39 million annually for three- or four-year contracts. Flights would be aboard Cessna Grand Caravan single-engine aircraft.

Air Choice One also is proposing 18 round-trip flights to Chicago and 18 to St. Louis at an annual subsidy of $2.76 million. Or the airline could provide 12 round-trip flights to St. Louis and 24 to Chicago each week for a subsidy of $2.86 million per year.

Costs would rise to $3.16 million for 36 weekly flights to Chicago only.

A final Air Choice One option would offer flights on either the Cessna Grand Caravan or Beechcraft 1900 twin-engine aircraft at a subsidy of $3.36 million for 18 weekly flights each to St. Louis and Chicago.

Southern Airways Express of Hernando, Miss., has proposed 29 weekly flights to St. Louis and seven to Chicago at a cost of $2.49 million aboard Cessna Caravan aircraft. A second option would offer 36 weekly flights to St. Louis at a cost of $2.36 million.

Boutique Air from San Francisco proposed 36 weekly flights to St. Louis at a cost of $2.9 million; 30 weekly flights at costs of $2.76 million for three flights to St. Louis and two to Chicago; or $2.83 million for three weekday flights to Chicago and two to St. Louis.

Flights would be aboard a mix of single- and twin-engine aircraft.

SkyWest Airlines of St. George, Utah, proposed 12 weekly flights to Chicago aboard Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft with a capacity of 50 seats. The annual subsidy would be $2.66 million.

Federal officials will consider the mix of aircraft, schedules and costs. The city's choice of options, as well recommendations by local and federal elected officials, will be important in the final decision.

Although funding for the Essential Air Service was not included in President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget, airline officials are hopeful the funds will be included in the final spending plan approved by Congress. Moore said members of Congress also told him they're hopeful that funding will be approved.

"One thing they said we need to be mindful of is that there's a $200 per ticket cap for subsidies," Moore said.

Current costs for Quincy flights have been closer to $100 per ticket. Cape Air had more than 7,600 departing passengers last year, down from more than 10,200 in 2013.

The USDOT schedule calls for a contract to be in place by Dec. 1.

Original article can be found here:  http://www.whig.com

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