San Francisco-based Boutique Air was recently awarded a two-year contract to provide Essential Air Service to Merced Municipal Airport, according to a news release.
The company will provide air service to and from Los Angeles International, Oakland International and Las Vegas’ McCarran International airports.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the company, the release stated, which is expected to provide 31 nonstop round trips a week beginning sometime after Aug. 1, according to the city of Merced. The annual federal subsidy is $2.9 million.
“We believe local residents, businesses, as well as the University of California system will all benefit substantially with nonstop service to these destinations,” Boutique Air CEO Shawn Simpson said in a statement.
There will be 12 nonstop trips per week to Los Angeles, 12 to Oakland and seven to Las Vegas, according to the news release.
The Oakland flights could make it easier for UC Merced officials to get to the University of California Office of the President, which is based there.
Many UC Merced staff members and some faculty members travel there frequently, but it’s difficult to estimate how often, according to UC Merced spokeswoman Patti Waid. “Most people on the chancellor’s cabinet, including deans and vice chancellors, go at least once a month,” she said in an email.
The Department of Transportation’s selection committee reviewed the number of flights, airports served and flight reliability of Boutique Air before awarding the contract. Plus, the release stated, the company has committed to marketing its air service with a budget of $104,340 to increase ridership.
31Number of nonstop flights to Los Angleles, Oakland and Las Vegas
Five carriers submitted proposals to the Department of Transportation. Boutique offered the most flights and the most destinations, according to the release.
The company will fly using an eight- or nine-passenger Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, a pressurized Swiss-made turbo-prop plane with a restroom, the release stated.
Merced City Manager John Bramble called the contract “a very attractive package that we believe will well serve Merced and the northern Valley.”
Boutique will replace Great Lakes Airlines, which served Merced with 12 trips a week to Los Angeles International Airport. Last year, the Merced airport was spared from losing its Essential Air Service program, which would have been a major blow to area business people, according to city leaders.
$2.9 millionAnnual federal subsidy in Merced for Essential Air Service
The Merced airport was not meeting the program’s standard to average at least 10 plane passengers per day.
The Essential Air Service program was established to ensure smaller communities received adequate and affordable air transportation options after the airline deregulation of the 1970s.
Boutique Air is also found at airports in other small communities in New Mexico and Texas, according to the company website.