Thursday, May 20, 2021

Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport (KRUT) bidders dangle New York City flight

The Rutland airport appears likely to have flights to New York soon, but with whom remains to be determined.

The contract for carrier service out of the Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport is up for renewal, and Cape Air made a pitch for local support to the Board of Aldermen Monday saying they would look at replacing one of the three daily flights to Boston with a daily flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport if they got the contract again.

Mayor David Allaire said this week that the other two bidders have similarly offered service to airports in the greater New York City area — Newark and White Plains. Allaire said he met this week with both Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region (CEDRR) executive director Lyle Jepson and airport manager Chris Beitzel on the bids and would express his office’s preference to federal officials in the next few days.

The U.S. Department of Transportation selects the passenger carrier to operate out of the airport. In theory, this is done with input from state and local officials, but in 2019 Cape Air’s contract was renewed despite Allaire and the Vermont Agency of Transportation endorsing a competing bid from Boutique Air.

Materials supplied by USDOT indicated that the selection will be announced in September.

Cape Air’s representatives told aldermen on Monday that they were the only carrier proposing to fly a multi-engine plane out of Rutland, and if their contract was renewed they would deploy a brand-new model of plane. Their proposal also included a $50,000 marketing budget for the service.

“That money goes a long way up in Rutland,” Cape Air CEO Dan Wolf told the board.

The airline’s bid materials put airfare at $69 to Boston and $99 to JFK.

Southern Airways Chief Commercial Officer Mark Cestari said Thursday his company would provide service with Cessna Caravans, which he said were roomy planes with large windows, significant personal space and high cargo capacity. Similarly to Cape Air, they propose two flights a day to Boston and one to Newark. Fares would range from $39 to $89 depending on how far in advance passengers booked.

Boutique Air did not immediately respond to inquiries Thursday, but bid materials provided by USDOT showed the airline promising a $20,000 marketing budget and average fares of $69. In addition to redirecting a Boston flight to White Plains, it held out the possibility of flights to Hartford, Connecticut, depending on demand.

Allaire noted that he backed Boutique’s bids in both 2019 and 2017 despite the fact that he was “not unhappy” with Cape Air’s service.

“They’ve been a partner here in the community for a long time,” he said of Cape Air. “They continue to be.”

Boutique, however, proposed to bring in a newer and faster aircraft than what Cape Air sends to Rutland and the service looked like it would be a “step up.” Allaire said proposing to bring in a newer plane and service to JFK made for Cape Air’s strongest presentation yet.

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