Today is Greg Yanker’s last day as Chadron City Manager and one process he won’t be able to help conclude before he leaves is the federal Dept of Transportation’s awarding of the next 2-year Essential Air Service contract for Chadron.
Today is the last day airlines can submit bids to the DOT, and Yanker says two airlines have done so, including current provider Boutique Airlines.
The city council generally recommends one bidder to the DOT and their choice is nearly always granted the contract. Yanker expects the council to make its recommendation in the coming weeks with a DOT decision by the summer.
The EAS program was created by Congress in the late 1980s when the airline industry was deregulated to help smaller, rural airports such as Chadron, Alliance, and Scottsbluff remain open. Yanker says it’s impossible to express how important it is
Chadron and Alliance had been served by the same airline – first GP Express, then Great Lakes, and now Boutique – since the EAS program began until the current contract which began last year.
Alliance was dissatisfied by the level of service it was receiving on Boutique’s shared Chadron-Alliance route and instead chose the Denver Air Connection, a subsidiary of Key Lime Air.
Yanker says Chadron remains very satisfied with Boutique, although it has begun to experience that same type of pilot shortage caused by poaching by the major airlines that eventually led to the demise of Great Lakes Airlines.
He says it has led to the cancellation of some flights on a schedule already reduced by COVID-19’s impact on travel, but that Boutique is working hard on training replacements.