As the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) searches for a new airline carrier to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) to Canyonlands Field airport after terminating Great Lakes’ contract, a limited-service airline — Utah Airways — is expected to begin offering some flights on Oct. 16.
While the Utah Airways flights will not be subsidized through the DOT’s EAS program, the airline plans to offer limited flights on Mondays and Fridays on twin-engine PA-31 Piper Navajo six-seat aircraft.
“We’ve been going to Moab for a while flying people over to do tours at the National Parks,” said Utah Airways co-founder David Story. “We were approached by the [Canyonlands Field] airport manager to see if we were interested in providing service. We were, and we’re going to do it unsubsidized.”
Before Grand County approved a month-to-month lease agreement with Utah Airways on Oct. 6, airport manager Judd Hill told the county council that the airline is fully aware the airport is still in search of a larger carrier.
“If an [EAS] airline comes in and takes their business, they’d like to consider a Las Vegas route,” Hill said.
Utah Airways will offer flights on Fridays leaving Salt Lake City to Moab at 1 p.m. and leaving Moab to Salt Lake City at 3:30 p.m. On Mondays, flights will leave Salt Lake City for Moab at 6 a.m. and depart Moab to Salt Lake City at 8:30 a.m.
Story said flight booking information will be available in the coming days on Utah Airways’ website: flyutahair.com. Passengers will also be able to make reservations by phone at 888-663-9919.
As for EAS service, Hill expects a few carriers — including San Francisco-based Boutique Air — to place bids for the Canyonlands Field contract. The deadline for bids closes Oct. 28.
“We hope to definitely have a bid from Boutique Air but we will pursue any and all options that could theoretically be available to us,” Hill said.
Boutique Air and Price-based Redtail Aviation also placed bids in January for the EAS contract, but Great Lakes Airlines was chosen mainly because it is certified as a Part 121 operator, which — if the company had begun providing air service — would have enabled the airport to retain its federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA) status.
But after months of no passenger airline service to Canyonlands Field, the TSA employees were removed and the airport was de-federalized.
“The reason that [Great Lakes] got selected was that they were the only airline at the time at the last bid that could keep TSA and keep us inline with Homeland Security,” Hill said. “Through their inaction, Homeland Security [which oversees the TSA] pulled out because they are not there to serve the airport, their presence was there to serve the traveling public. If there was no traveling public, they couldn’t justify their existence at the airport.”
Because Boutique Air has recently been certified with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Hill says if the company is awarded the EAS contract, TSA could return to Canyonlands Field sometime in the future.
For more information and updates about Canyonlands Field airport, visit the website: at moabairport.com, or the airport’s Facebook page: Canyonlands Field Moab Airport.
ByBy By Molly Marcello