QUINCY (HERALD-WHIG) — Hours ahead of Quincy Aeronautics Committee meeting slated for noon Wednesday, Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore and Quincy Regional Airport Director Sandra Shore announced they would be recommending the committee select Cape Air to be the new essential air service provider for the local airport.
“We’ve been very lucky during my term in office to have a robust discussion about the Essential Air Service contract and the terms of service,” Moore said. Those discussions included what the mayor described as a very frank conversation four years ago with the management of Cape Air, which is based in Hyannis, Mass.
“We had a very frank conversation with Cape Air that if we were going to continue to fly with Cape Air that we were going to need new planes, that we would need to always fly with two pilots, and that we wanted a route to O’Hare,” Moore said of the conversations he had in 2015 with the airline. By 2017, the airline had not been able to achieve those objectives, which caused the city to sever its ties with the airline.
Now, Moore and Shore say the airline has addressed those concerns.
The airline’s proposal, which now has the backing of the city’s mayor and airport director, is for three flights per day to both O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and Lambert International Airport in St. Louis.
The airline has pledged to dedicate multiple state-of-the-art aircraft, the Tecnam P2012 Traveller, to Quincy Regional Airport and will have multiple flight crews relocate to the community. This new plane, which seats nine passengers, will be always be piloted by two certified pilots, according to Cape Air Senior Vice President of Planning Andrew Bonney’s remarks during a townhall meeting in Quincy last week.
Moore and Shore selected Cape Air over three other airlines, Boutique Air, Air Choice One and SkyWest Airlines. SkyWest is the current Essential Air Service contract holder and only provides flights to Chicago.
Moore said he and Shore only considered the flights included in the proposals, not the promise of potential bonus flights to other destinations such as Denver, Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul or Nashville.
Bonus flights are not included in the Essential Air Service contract and are designed to help bolster an airport’s enplanement number, which is the number of passengers boarding flights at an airport.
“We need to build up our market so that we can look at additional charter flights to places like Nashville or Minneapolis-St. Paul,” Moore said. “Cape Air has the ability do that, especially as they begin to phase out their Cessna planes and reconfigure them.”
A report from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics shows that 9,400 passengers flew out of Quincy Regional Airport aboard SkyWest flights in 2018.
“SkyWest has the ability to take us to other hubs, but our passenger count just was not there,” Moore said. “We’re not filling up the planes on a regular basis, and that is because, I think, reliability has been such an issue.”
The recommendation of Cape Air is pending the approval of the Aeronautics Committee, which will refer its choice to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The federal department has the final say as to which airline receives the two-year contract.
Local officials expect the federal Department of Transportation to announce its choice to provide Essential Air Service to Quincy in late September to mid-October.
Moore said that while he believes Cape Air is the best choice for Quincy, he and other city leaders will work with SkyWest if the U.S. Department of Transportation chooses them.
“If at the end of the day, the Department of Transportation says that they are going to keep us with SkyWest because our passenger numbers are up and that we are already connected to the third-largest airport in the United States, then we will be happy with it,” Moore said.
Moore said if Cape Air receives the contract, it will be up to Quincy residents to utilize Quincy Regional Airport.
“The onus becomes on the passengers of Quincy Regional Airport, especially the ones who have called my office on an almost daily basis, the ones who have posted things about (the airport) on social media, who have said things like they don’t fly out of Quincy Regional Airport because we don’t offer flights to St. Louis,” Moore said. “Now is the time for you to fly. They need to utilize those routes.”
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