A330323X
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BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Sat Jun 24, 2006 12:07 pm

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-IAD-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-IAD 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-BKW 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-BLF-CLT routing, using the J32, for a subsidy of $1,477,402. Option 3 offers 2x daily BKW-CLT roundtrips, using the J32, for a subsidy of $1,223,174. Option 4 offers 2x daily BKW-CLT 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 at CVG 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.  Yeah sure And the DOT, of course, just plays along and let the communities get their way, choosing unreliable airlines and hubs with no connectivity.

DOT links:
The DOT request for proposals to provide subsidized EAS at BKW/BLF
Colgan's proposal
RegionsAir's collection of lies
The DOT order terminating subsidy at BLF
The DOT letter to the mayor of BKW requesting comments
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knope2001
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Sat Jun 24, 2006 9:22 pm

EAS is supposed to help communities keep a resonable level of useful air service. Idealy it should help communities become self-sufficient in supporting air service.

Instead, EAS seems to help communities become ineligible for EAS service.
 
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knope2001
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Sat Jun 24, 2006 9:26 pm

I forgot to mention...did you catch that both Enid and Ponca City OK are being dumped from EAS as well?
 
A330323X
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Sun Jun 25, 2006 3:34 am

Quoting Knope2001 (Reply 1):
Instead, EAS seems to help communities become ineligible for EAS service.

Only 2 or 3 communities a year lose service by going over the subsidy cap, so it's hardly something I'd say happens very often.
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mtnwest1979
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Sun Jun 25, 2006 10:58 am

Maybe the carriers vying for Beckley can conspire to artificially bid high, and as a 'courtesy', also include service into Bluefield! Thiis would seem a reasonable option!!  Wink
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masseybrown
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Mon Jun 26, 2006 4:20 pm

Sorry I didn't see this thread when I briefly posted about Bluefield elsewhere - a loss of service being a fairly rare thing.

Regions has certainly earned your abuse, A330. I'd love to know if they come anywhere close to their financial projections for CLE operations.
 
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knope2001
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Mon Jun 26, 2006 11:42 pm

Quoting A330323X (Reply 3):
Quoting Knope2001 (Reply 1):
Instead, EAS seems to help communities become ineligible for EAS service.

Only 2 or 3 communities a year lose service by going over the subsidy cap, so it's hardly something I'd say happens very often.

But over the course of 25+ years, that rate would have dozens and dozens of cities once deemed as "essential" no longer qualifying. So far this year there are five cities being dropped that I know of:

Jackson TN
Enid OK
Ponca City OK
Ephrata/Moses Lake WA
Bluefield WV

And just as most of these cities had been "warned" because they were on the cusp of ineligibility in prior years, more cities like Kirksville, Jonesboro, and Ownesboro on are the edge and likely to get cut the next time they come up for rebidding.

Every community is different, and there are some stories to make EAS seem important and others to make EAS seem like a total waste. But to give you an idea of what I mean about EAS leading communities toward ineligiblity, I'll use Ironwood, Michigan as a illustration. Ironwood is useful for several reasons:

(1) It is clearly remote (times are from Yahoo Maps)
Closest Medium or Large Hub Airport: MSP 5:22
Closest Small Hub Airport: GRB 4:56
Closest Mainline Jet Service DLH 3:21
Closest Non-Subsidized Service: RHI 2:22

(2) Unlike some airports where a relatively close city has the draw of Southwest or other low-fare service, IWD's closest low fare service is fairly minimal at MSP (5:22) and MKE (6:01). Reasonable service and reasonable fares should keep IWD afloat and relatively stable.

The key measure of how well EAS is doing in the ultimate goal of supporting air service to rural communities is seeing how many people used the service. Here in crude graphical comparison are the daily passengers at IWD for each year from 1984 (the first full year of EAS if I recall) through 2005:

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
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XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
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Today's traffic of about 18 passengers per day is slightly higher than the 17 per day seen in 1984. But over those 22 years it ranged from a high of 28 per day to a low of just over 8 per day. In nearly every year the traffic at IWD swung up or down 10% or more, and many years it went up or down by more than 20%.

What made traffic swing so wildly back and forth through the years? The way EAS was dealt to Ironwood. Sometimes they had links to Chicago, sometimes Minnepolis, sometimes Detroit, sometimes Milwaukee. Sometimes it was nonstop, or 1-stop, or for a time even 2-stop. Sometimes it was a code-sharing regional, sometimes not. And sometimes it was a code-sharing regional serving an airport that wasn't its hub (United Express nonstops to Minneapolis come to mind).

The Ironwood area is relatively stable or stagnant, and while the economy and other events (like the dip you can see frmo 9/11) affect air ftraffic, that doesn't adequately explain it. Some of IWD's peak years were durnig the recession and gulf war years of the early 90's.

The bulk of IWD's wild swings in traffic seem to be due to the level of service they received, all of which was subsidized and approved by the DoT during this period.

Seenig IWD's traffic today it's appearent that the community's demand for air service can match levels of when they entered EAS 20+ years ago even with minimally reasonable service. IWD has had 13 round trips per week to Milwaukee, all 1-stop flights on 19-seat aircaft to a comparably modest Midwest Airlines hub. But if IWD was about 50 miles closer to MSP, it wouldn't be "remote" enough to have survived. In years when service, especially Great Lakes, was so inconsistent and/or expensive to stay under the limits, IWD would have been dropped like so many other cities.

IWD survived because it was a little too far from MSP. Other cities that probably would have been equaqlly viable got the ax when the EAS-chosen service finally choked off traffic enough to slip out of subsidy eligibility.

I have particular doubts about EAS cities going from code-share carriers to non-code-share carriers. And getting flights to airports that are really not "hubs". When you can fly out of a small town on an all-United ticket, or an all-Northwest ticket, for example, that generally means more competitive fares, better connections, and an intangible sense of "normalcy". This is partciularly true for people from other areas going *to* small communities (like businesspeople visiting a client.) When instead they have to book separate tickets including one an an airline they never heard of, and it's clear that the short hop is perhaps an added $180-250, it's seen as expensive, inconvenient, and risky. This kind of thing leads more people into their cars, and makes the per-passenger subsidy climb into EAS-dropping levels.

[Edited 2006-06-26 16:56:22]
 
masseybrown
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Mon Jun 26, 2006 11:50 pm

Quoting Knope2001 (Reply 6):
This kind of thing leads more people into their cars, and makes the per-passenger subsidy climb into EAS-dropping levels.

Unfortunately, much of the bus service to small cities is disappearing also.
 
KarlB737
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Tue Jun 27, 2006 4:41 am

Courtesy: The Register-Herald

Colgan’s Bid For Air Service At BKW To Be Accepted

http://www.register-herald.com/siteS...section/local_story_173222416.html
 
ScottB
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Tue Jun 27, 2006 5:08 am

Quoting A330323X (Thread starter):
Colgan has submitted one option, for 3x daily BKW-IAD roundtrips on the Beech 1900D, operated as US Airways Express, for a subsidy of $1,930,759.

I suppose United might be the sticking point in terms of allowing use of their code, but it seems like it would make far more sense to operate BKW-IAD as United Express flights, especially since Colgan already operates as United Express at IAD. The subsidies per passenger in all of these cases strike me as being insane.
 
A330323X
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Wed Jun 28, 2006 7:04 am

Quoting KarlB737 (Reply 8):
Courtesy: The Register-Herald

Colgan’s Bid For Air Service At BKW To Be Accepted

http://www.register-herald.com/siteS....html

Thanks for the article. Unfortunately it just confirms my fears:

Quoting A330323X (Thread starter):
Unfortunately, we already know that they're not the brightest bulbs on the tree

First, there's the premise of the article, based on this quote from the Beckley airport manager:

“Because the Department of Transportation could only consider bids containing subsidy requests that met the Essential Air Service program’s guidelines, the bid from Regions Air will not be considered,” Cochran explained. “Colgan Air should receive a new two-year contract for the period beginning Aug. 1.”

That's simply not true; as I described above, RegionsAir's Option 1 will indeed be considered. While I believe it's clearly an inferior choice, it certainly is a possible one. And this is coming from the airport manager, someone who should know better.

But that's nothing compared to this doozy from Bluefield:

“I was not aware of the termination, so I can’t comment about it,” said Charlie Peters, president of Mercer County Airport Authority.

Yep, that's right, his airport is losing its last commercial service, and he doesn't have a clue.  Yeah sure

Quoting ScottB (Reply 9):
I suppose United might be the sticking point in terms of allowing use of their code

Yes, exactly. United won't let anyone operate 19-seat turboprops as United Express, it wants UAX to be all cabin-class service. If Colgan upgrades the routes to Saabs, then it can operate them as United Express under the terms of their existing UAX agreement at IAD, with no problem.

Quoting ScottB (Reply 9):
but it seems like it would make far more sense to operate BKW-IAD as United Express flights

In theory, it shouldn't make much of a difference. Since US codeshares on nearly all of the UA flights at IAD, people can already book an online connection using the US/US* code, and it's not like UA would file lower fares in the markets than US does.

In practice, though, you're correct, as there are people who don't realize that. In particular, I feel much more certain about that having read the above article: given the airport-managing skills the Beckley and Bluefield folks seem to (not) have, including their past support of that lovely CMH service, I don't have much confidence that they do a very good job of promoting or even explaining the ability to connect from US to UA at IAD.

Quoting ScottB (Reply 9):
The subsidies per passenger in all of these cases strike me as being insane.

I sure wish someone gave me a $300 subsidy every time I bought a plane ticket.  Silly
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ScottB
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Wed Jun 28, 2006 7:35 am

Quoting A330323X (Reply 10):
In theory, it shouldn't make much of a difference. Since US codeshares on nearly all of the UA flights at IAD, people can already book an online connection using the US/US* code

Perhaps they can on third-party sites, but if you try to book BKW-BOS, for example, on usairways.com, the IAD-BOS flights on United/United Express don't show up in the possible itineraries; the minimum number of connections is two (at IAD and then mostly CLT, PIT, or PHL). The same is true for BKW-ORD or BKW-LGA. So...

Quoting A330323X (Reply 10):
I don't have much confidence that they do a very good job of promoting or even explaining the ability to connect from US to UA at IAD.

It seems that US doesn't do a terribly good job of promoting this, either...
 
A330323X
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Wed Jun 28, 2006 7:57 am

Quoting ScottB (Reply 11):
Perhaps they can on third-party sites, but if you try to book BKW-BOS, for example, on usairways.com, the IAD-BOS flights on United/United Express don't show up in the possible itineraries; the minimum number of connections is two (at IAD and then mostly CLT, PIT, or PHL). The same is true for BKW-ORD or BKW-LGA. So...

It wasn't like that a month ago until the geniuses from HP went and f***ed up the website.  Yeah sure

Try booking any US* codeshare flights on there.
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A330323X
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Thu Jun 29, 2006 1:47 am

The folks from Beckley have wasted no time in getting back to the DOT, with the mayor and airport director supporting the Colgan proposal. They also beg for the larger aircraft, though apparently only because they feel that bigger is better, not realizing the codeshare implications involved.

And my new hero--the Beckley airport manager--continues to not disappoint, sending the DOT a letter containing spelling errors, typos, and grammar problems. (I'll find someone new to pick on now, I swear...)
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masseybrown
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Thu Jun 29, 2006 4:12 am

Quoting A330323X (Reply 13):
(I'll find someone new to pick on now, I swear...)

Regions should be starting CLE-JHW/BFD in a few weeks. You might want to keep your powder dry for that.  Wink
 
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knope2001
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Thu Jun 29, 2006 10:48 am

Quoting Knope2001 (Reply 6):
So far this year there are five cities being dropped that I know of:

Jackson TN
Enid OK
Ponca City OK
Ephrata/Moses Lake WA
Bluefield WV

Add Kirksville MO to the list, planned to be dumped 10/1/06.

http://dms.dot.gov/search/document.cfm?documentid=402956&docketid=2515
 
A330323X
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Thu Jun 29, 2006 11:42 am

Quoting Knope2001 (Reply 6):
So far this year there are five cities being dropped that I know of:

Jackson TN

MKL is not being dropped from the EAS program. The DOT found that they are under the $200 cap, and terminated the show-cause proceeding.

See this order.

Quoting Knope2001 (Reply 15):
Add Kirksville MO to the list, planned to be dumped 10/1/06.

Yes, that's a shame, as IRK would not have gone over the cap were it not for the community being afraid of stepping on a RegionsAir plane after the crash there.

And when the contract was last up for bid, they said exactly that, and supported Air Midwest over RegionsAir. The DOT chose RegionsAir anyway, even though Air Midwest had a lower subsidy amount in addition to the community support.

It certainly does seem at times that the DOT intentionally picks inferior options so that a marginal community will go over the cap, and then the DOT won't have to pay for any service there at all.
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lincoln
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Thu Jun 29, 2006 12:29 pm

Quoting A330323X (Thread starter):
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.

Wasn't there a thread here a few months back about the DOT being able to force mainline airlines to codeshare to EAS cities? (I can't find it now using the search engine, but I swear it existed).

So even if RegionsAir doesn't have a codeshare agreement with anyone now, had they been awarded EAS service, the DOT could have required US to codeshare with them into the EAS city, IIRC.

Lincoln
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masseybrown
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Thu Jun 29, 2006 1:39 pm

Quoting Lincoln (Reply 17):
Wasn't there a thread here a few months back about the DOT being able to force mainline airlines to codeshare to EAS cities? (I can't find it now using the search engine, but I swear it existed).

You remember correctly. My recollection is that it was a proposed rule floated by DOT for comments; I've not seen what comments may have been submitted. In any case, DOT cannot currently compel a codeshare.
 
masseybrown
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Thu Jun 29, 2006 2:24 pm

In further reply about forced code-sharing, the DOT case is Docket 21790. The last action was a request last February by the DOT for proposals. They have received none so far.

http://dms.dot.gov/search/searchResu...umberValue=21790&searchType=docket
 
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knope2001
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Thu Jun 29, 2006 5:36 pm

Quoting A330323X (Reply 16):
MKL is not being dropped from the EAS program. The DOT found that they are under the $200 cap, and terminated the show-cause proceeding.

Good to see. I hope they keep their boardings up. Thanks for the info!
 
A330323X
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Tue Jul 04, 2006 12:34 pm

And the DOT has picked the Colgan proposal to continue providing subsidized EAS at Beckley.

http://dmses.dot.gov/docimages/pdf97/403569_web.pdf
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masseybrown
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Tue Jul 04, 2006 2:42 pm

DOT is giving Colgan a choice of aircraft and 50% more subsidy for the larger 340s. I don't recall seeing DOT do that before. Is this a precedent? Or, if common, a recent practice?
 
A330323X
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Tue Jul 04, 2006 4:32 pm

Quoting MasseyBrown (Reply 22):
DOT is giving Colgan a choice of aircraft and 50% more subsidy for the larger 340s. I don't recall seeing DOT do that before. Is this a precedent? Or, if common, a recent practice?

It's 50% more subsidy per flight, which makes up for there only being 12 weekly Saab flights compared to 18 weekly Beech flights. The annual subsidy is the same in either case.

As to having a choice of aircraft, I've seen it a handful of times before. It's not terribly common, but you must consider that there are only a few operators who use both 19-seat and larger aircraft. Off the top of my head, the first example is that the DOT just did it the other day at Escanaba, giving Skyway the flexibility to operate either 19 weekly Beech 1900s or 12 weekly Fairchild 328JETs.
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masseybrown
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RE: BKW/BLF EAS Update: Bluefield To Lose Service

Wed Jul 05, 2006 2:46 am

Quoting A330323X (Reply 23):
It's 50% more subsidy per flight, which makes up for there only being 12 weekly Saab flights compared to 18 weekly Beech flights. The annual subsidy is the same in either case.

Ah, thanks. That makes a lot more sense.