It’s official: Boutique Air is EAS provider

Boutique Air is officially the Essential Air Service provider at Massena International Airport following approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The decision was announced Friday afternoon in a Department of Transportation order. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

MASSENA — Boutique Air is officially the Essential Air Service provider at Massena International Airport following approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The decision was announced Friday afternoon in a Department of Transportation order.

“Boutique Air has been a partner in the EAS program for several years and currently provides reliable EAS at several communities. Also, its proposal is strongly supported by the community. Lastly, Boutique Air dedicates $20,000 to market its air service at Massena. Therefore, the Department is selecting Boutique Air for a new, two-year contract term,” Joel Szabat, deputy assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs wrote.

Town of Massena Deputy Supervisor Samuel D. Carbone Jr. said that among Boutique Air’s contributions to the town was $5,000 for the Big Bass Blowout fishing tournament.

“That netted no cost to the town for that tournament,” he said. “They’ve been working with us a lot on branding. Some of the programs are going to help both Massena and Boutique Air.”

He said Boutique Air also contributed financially to a fishing calendar.

The two-year contract runs from April 1 to March 31, 2023, at a first-year annual subsidy rate of $3,411,097 and a second-year annual subsidy rate of $3,479,318.

Boutique Air will provide 21 non-stop round trips each week from Massena International Airport to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and/or Boston Logan International Airport using eight-passenger Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

It’s been a profitable partnership for both the airline and the town, Mr. Carbone said.

“They’ve been with us four years now. When we first started our airport, it used to cost us $300,000 a year. In 2019, because of our work with Boutique, we were $15,000 in the black. The airport basically costs no money in local taxes,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation had initially selected Boutique Air to provide EAS service in Massena from April 1, 2019, through March 31, providing 21 non-stop round trips per week to Boston Logan International Airport for a first-year annual subsidy of $3,074,254 and a second-year annual subsidy of $3,166,481.

An order issued on Dec. 18, 2020 announced the approval of Boutique Air, with the concurrence of the community, to operate up to seven of the 21 weekly round trips to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in lieu of service to Boston. There was no change in the annual subsidy or contract end date.

“It’s great to have two destinations. I think it works out well. We have the early flights in Massena. It gets you to both those airports early enough to catch a flight somewhere else,” Mr. Carbone said.

Although COVID-19 impacted airline travel, including Boutique Air, he said the airline held its own. He said there are usually five or six passengers on average and, even with the pandemic, they still averaged 3 to 3½ passengers each flight, and that’s expected to grow again as more activities begin to open.

Boutique Air was one of three airlines submitting proposals to provide Essential Air Service at Massena International Airport. Also submitting bids were Cape Air and Southern Airways Express, LLC. Cape Air had served the town for eight years prior to Boutique Air winning the contract.

Boutique Air had also bid to provide service in Ogdensburg, but that was a separate bid from Massena, meaning the U.S. Department of Transportation could award the EAS contract in Massena to Boutique Air even if Ogdensburg selected another airline. SkyWest was selected by the Department of Transportation to provide Essential Air Service in Ogdensburg.

Cape Air had included Massena and Ogdensburg in the same bid package. Under its proposal for both communities, travelers would have three daily round-trip flights to Albany International Airport. From there, two flights would continue to Boston-Logan International Airport and back, while the third would travel to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City.

“Cape Air’s proposal for Massena was submitted as an ‘all-or-nothing’ package with Ogdensburg. In other words, Cape Air’s proposal at Massena was contingent on Cape Air being selected to provide EAS at Ogdensburg,” Mr. Szabat wrote.

The Southern Airways Express proposal, which was not linked with Ogdensburg, included six options — 21 weekly round-trip flights to Boston on a C-208; 17 weekly round-trip flights to Boston and four to Albany on a C-208; 21 weekly round-trip flights to Boston on a PC-12; 17 weekly round-trip flights to Boston and four to Albany on a PC-12; 14 weekly round-trip flights to Boston and seven to New York City on a PC-12; and 14 weekly round-trip flights to Boston and seven to Dulles International Airport in Virginia.

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