Chadron Council Picks Southern Airways For EAS Subsidy

     The Chadron City Council has unanimously recommended the federal Transportation Dept award the next 2-year Essential Air Service subsidy contract for the Chadron-Denver route to Southern Airways Express. 

        There are 3 bidders and Southern’s proposal of $2.74-million in subsidy is about $145,000 more than current contract holder and and $660,000 less than Denver Air Connection-Lime Air.

      Interim City Manager Milo Rust says the DOT doesn’t have to go along with the city’s choice, but usually does even if the bid isn’t the lowest.

All 3 proposals were reviewed by a committee of city staff, the airport Fixed Base Operator, and city council member Miles Bannan and Mayor Mark Werner. Werner says they liked both Southern’s proposal and the airline’s background.

Southern began with 2 planes and 3 pilots in Memphis in June 2013, but it acquired Sun Air Express in 2016 and Mokulele Airlines in Hawaii in 2019 and is now one of the largest commuter airlines in the country. Werner likes their local commitment.  

Werner also likes Southern’s plans for marketing Chadron and the region.

Boutique has served Chadron since 2015, but city officials grew disappointed last year with an increasing number of cancellations due to a pilot shortage and a lack of communication by the airline over its plans.

       Former Boutique pilot Tom Warren became its Vice President of Operations late last year and made a strong pitch to the council, saying many of the issues cited by the city have been corrected or are being addressed. 

        Several council members said they might have supported keeping Boutique had the airline hired Warren sooner, and he pledged to keep in touch and present an even stronger proposal when the contract is up for bid again in 2 years.