The City of Chadron is about to send to the U-S Dept of Transportation its choice from among 3 airlines for the next 2-year Essential Air Service subsidy contract for the Chadron to Denver route.
The city’s pick isn’t guaranteed to be awarded the contract, but the DOT generally goes along with the choice as long as it works financially.
Current EAS carrier Boutique Air, Southern Airways Express, and the Denver Air Connection – part of Key Lime Air – are all offering 12 round-trips per week to Denver using turbo-prop planes but each with options.
Chadron and Alliance had been served by the same airline since the EAS program began until the current contract when Chadron stayed with Boutique and Alliance switched to Denver Air Connection. which began last year.
Each of the three bidders offers something never offered before. Denver Air Connection has an option for jet service connected to Alliance, while Boutique is offering an option of 8 round-trips per week to Denver and 4 to Omaha.
Southern Airways has proposed game-day flights from Chadron and Alliance to Lincoln for all Husker football home games this fall and up to 5 basketball home games.
Boutique, which began serving Chadron and Alliance in 2015, has struggled to meet its schedule in recent months because of a short of pilots after several were lured away by larger carriers
Despite that, Boutique announced last week it’s beginning daily flights between Chadron and Rapid City on Feb 15 with rates similar to those to Denver. Marketing Director and Regional Manager Teresa Mesman says it’s partly due to COVID-19.
Mesman says Boutique is “basically helping major airlines” by providing more connections to a city where the number of flights has been reduced because of coronavirus limits and concerns that caused major drops in passenger totals.
Mesman says Boutique hopes to make the Chadron-Rapid City flight permanent after the pandemic ends, if it wins the EAS contract for Chadron, calling Rapid City “a jewel of tourism and business destinations” for this part of the nation.
Boutique Vice President of Business Operations Brian Konrad says Rapid City is the busiest airport in the region and gives passengers plenty of opportunities to either connect to other cities or one-day business trips to Rapid City.
The airline will use the same 8-passenger Pilatus-12 on the Rapid City route that it uses for the Chadron-Denver flights.