The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has selected SkyWest Airlines to contract for essential air service (EAS) in Moab and Vernal, according to an order released on Friday, Aug. 24.
Boutique Air, the current EAS provider at Canyonlands Field, also submitted a bid for the contract, which would run through 2020. The Grand County Council voted unanimously Aug. 1 to recommend SkyWest after the airport board endorsed the idea of a new carrier.
When Skywest begins EAS operations on March 1, 2018 it will fly 12 round-trip flights each week between Moab and Denver, utilizing 50-seat jets for a ticket price of just more than $80 each way.
In its decision to award the contract to SkyWest, the DOT stated five factors for selecting the carrier: service reliability, contractual and marketing arrangements with a larger carrier at the hub, interline arrangements with a larger carrier at the hub, community views and the views of the elected officials representing the users, and whether the carrier has included a plan to market its services to the community.
“Both carriers have a history of providing reliable EAS at many communities and both have excellent customer service records,” the DOT award order states. “Both carriers have made provisions for providing connections to a hub carrier at the EAS destination: Boutique through an interline agreement with United Airlines and SkyWest whose service will be marketed under the United Express brand. Additionally, the subsidy required by both carriers is reasonable for the level of service to be provided, notably with SkyWest’s proposal requiring [fewer] subsidies at each community.”
While a number of citizens in both Moab and Vernal wrote in support of Boutique Air as the EAS provider, DOT officials gave serious consideration to the views of elected officials in both communities. According to DOT, there was unanimous support for SkyWest among those elected officials and that support was a driving force behind the decision to select SkyWest at both communities.
The contract awarded to SkyWest will run through February 29, 2020 and provide an annual subsidy of just more than $6 million for service to both cities.