Massena plans Essential Air Service presentations

The Massena Town Council has scheduled a special meeting for 4 p.m. Monday for presentations by potential Essential Air Service providers. They will also take public comment during that session. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — The Massena Town Council has scheduled a special meeting for 4 p.m. Monday for presentations by potential Essential Air Service providers.

Three airlines will be making presentations — Boutique Air, Cape Air and Southern Airways Express. Town Council members will select which airline they prefer and make their recommendation to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which will have the final say.

Members will also take public comment during that session, which will be streamed via the town’s Facebook page.

Boutique Air currently serves as the town’s Essential Air Service provider. It began service at the Massena International Airport in mid-April 2017 when it took over as the town’s EAS provider at an annual subsidy of $2.9 million. It replaced Cape Air, which held the EAS contract in Massena for the previous eight years and had offered flights to Albany and Boston.

It was awarded the Essential Air Service contract again in March 2019. That contract runs from April 1, 2019, through March 21, 2021, with a first-year annual subsidy of $3.1 million and a second-year annual subsidy of $3.2 million.

Boutique Air initially offered flights to Albany and Baltimore, but those were scrapped in June 2018 in favor of 21 non-stop round trips each week to Boston Logan International Airport using the airline’s Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. Boutique Air officials announced that starting this month, Massena passengers connecting to Boston have direct flight options to and from Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Fort Myers and Tampa on United Airlines.

Boutique Air has an interline agreement with United, which allows travelers to get off a Boutique plane and go directly to United for their connecting flights.

Councilor Samuel D. Carbone Jr. said the airlines offer various bidding options, and one that is being offered by Boutique Air is to eliminate one daily flight to Boston in favor of a round-trip flight Baltimore. They would continue two daily round-trip flights to Boston.

Boutique Air was among four airlines that submitted bids in 2019. Also bidding were SkyWest Airlines, Cape Air and Silver Airways. The U.S. Department of Transportation initially awarded the EAS contract for Massena and Ogdensburg to SkyWest Airlines. However, SkyWest Airlines informed the Department of Transportation later that month that it would not be able to provide service in Massena.

“During preparations for our service launch in Massena, it has come to our attention that the Massena airport does not meet minimum federal operating requirements for the CRJ200 regional jet. The process to make the necessary updates for compliance is likely to take an extended period of time. Due to these airport operating limitations, we are unable to provide air service to Massena as scheduled,” SkyWest said.

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