The DOT issued a request for proposals to provide subsidized Essential Air Service at Beckley and Bluefield, in southern West Virginia. US Airways Express carrier Colgan Air is the incumbent airline, providing 3x daily combined roundtrips on the Beech 1900D, using routings like BLF-BKW
The DOT noted that Bluefield currently receives a subsidy equivalent to $226.93, which is over the $200 per passenger limit for airports within 210 driving miles of a medium hub. Bluefield is only 173 miles from Charlotte. The DOT stated that unless it received a proposal which brought Bluefield's subsidy requirement below $200 per passenger, it would be forced to terminate the subsidy. Beckley was able to save its air service by the skin of its teeth, as the DOT and Federal Highway Administration found that Beckley is 211 driving miles from its nearest medium hub, Charlotte, thus not subjecting it to the cap.
After receiving the proposals, the DOT issued an order terminating subsidy eligibility at Bluefield as of August 1. Colgan will not be subsidized for its BLF service after that date, and may discontinue service to the community at that time. The termination of Bluefield's Essential Air Service subsidy eligibility is permanent; even if a carrier served Bluefield at some point in the future and then requested an EAS subsidy of less than $200, BLF would not be then able to re-enter the program.
Beckley has historically had more enplanements than Bluefield, but that has reversed in the last year or two, with BKW
enplanements having fallen with BLF staying the same. I do anticipate Beckley's enplanements rising, though, as they should capture a decent portion of the traffic that formerly used Bluefield. This should help lower their subsidy from the obscene $390.76 per passenger
that Colgan's proposal calls for, but it'll still be outrageously high. (It was never nearly that high in the past, since BKW
/BLF shared flights, thus spreading the subsidy the passengers at both communities.)
Colgan has submitted one option, for 3x daily BKW
roundtrips on the Beech 1900D, operated as US Airways Express, for a subsidy of $1,930,759. Colgan could not come up with a proposal for BLF service that remained under the $200 per passenger cap. Colgan does state that it would attempt to offer BLF service on the route, as it does now, for no subsidy for as long as it is economically viable. They actually mean it, but I don't anticipate it lasting for long. Colgan also requests the right to switch the service at its discretion to 2x daily Saab 340 service, in which case the service would operate as United Express.
RegionsAir has submitted one lousy option, and three more giant flaming heaps of poop
. The first option offers 2x daily CLE
roundtrips on the Saab 340A, operated as Continental Connection, for a subsidy of $1,995,590. Of course, where RegionsAir is planning on getting the plane isn't mentioned, since it already has committed to starting other routes that it doesn't have planes for. But options 2, 3, and 4 are even better. Option 2 offers 2x daily roundtrips on a BKW
routing, using the J32, for a subsidy of $1,477,402. Option 3 offers 2x daily BKW
roundtrips, using the J32, for a subsidy of $1,223,174. Option 4 offers 2x daily BKW
roundtrips, using the Saab 340, for a subsidy of $1,830,657. The best part? RegionsAir proposes to operate the service as US Airways Express. Here, it can't even claim ignorance, like it did with its alleged DL
codeshare at CVG
. Even if US Airways wanted to associate themselves with an abortion of an airline like RegionsAir, which it certainly does not, it couldn't. You see, Mesa/Air Midwest have a long-term contract giving them the right to be the exclusive (i.e., only) independent US Airways Express carrier operating turboprops at CLT
. And if I know that, then I'm sure RegionsAir knows that, but that doesn't stop them from trying to lie their way into another contract. Oh, and by the way, options 2 and 3 don't even bother to meet the minimum seats requirement for Beckley under its EAS determination, imaginary code-share or not. The DOT has described RegionsAir's options 2/3/4 as being "problematic and deficient
" in both its order terminating subsidy eligibility at BLF, and in its letter to the mayor of BKW
. No shit. If only the DOT had considered that when it allowed RegionsAir to permanently harm air service at CKB/MGW
/PKB, awarding them that contract on the basis of a make-believe, imaginary codeshare with DL
that the whole world knew wasn't going to happen, using a type of plane that RegionsAir did not have in its fleet until over six months *after it had been awarded the service*. And hey, RegionsAir, how's the BFD
/JHW service coming? You were awarded that service back in March, still using imaginary airplanes, and were supposed to start that service by the terms of the DOT order a few days ago, at the latest. Didn't happen. Now they're aiming for "probably in August". That's right, their best-case scenario is starting service two months late. And I wouldn't count on their best-case scenario happening, either, given their track record of delays and bullshit in West Virginia. Now I guess I'll get the usual RegionsAir apologists, telling me about how they're a small company and all. Well, then, how about the small communities that have had their air service literally destroyed thanks to this small company, do they not count?
Hopefully, the folks in BKW
aren't so stupid as to actually fall for RegionsAir's tricks and recommend their Option 1. Unfortunately, we already know that they're not the brightest bulbs on the tree, as they've previously supported sending some of their EAS service to CMH
, for all the great connections there onto WN
And the DOT, of course, just plays along and let the communities get their way, choosing unreliable airlines and hubs with no connectivity.
The DOT request for proposals to provide subsidized EAS at BKW/BLF
RegionsAir's collection of lies
The DOT order terminating subsidy at BLF
The DOT letter to the mayor of BKW requesting comments
I'm the expert on here on two things, neither of which I care about much anymore.