Local

Air carrier to begin flights from Merced

A small plane flies into the Merced Municipal Airport in 2012.
A small plane flies into the Merced Municipal Airport in 2012. Merced Sun-Star file

Merced County travelers soon will have new flight options close to home, with regional airline Boutique Air set to begin service to Oakland and Los Angeles next week.

The San Francisco-based airline will begin offering two daily roundtrip flights to Los Angeles International Airport and three to Oakland International Airport on Oct. 5. A daily route between Merced and Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport will begin Nov. 1, the company said in a news release Monday.

Merced Municipal Airport has been without regional carrier service since July 31, when Great Lakes Airlines ceased operations there.

“We are excited to bring Boutique Air service to the community of Merced and the surrounding areas,” CEO Shawn Simpson in a statement. “Our focus on customer service and reliability has resulted in strong demand for our service in other markets, and we look forward to creating the same success story in the Central Valley.”

We are excited to bring Boutique Air service to the community of Merced and the surrounding areas.

CEO Shawn Simpson, in a statement

Fares will start at an introductory rate of $49 from Merced to Los Angeles, $19 from Merced to Oakland and $69 from Merced to Las Vegas, according to a news release.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced in June that it had chosen the company to serve Merced’s airport under a two-year contract for Essential Air Service, a government program designed to ensure that small communities have access to adequate and affordable flights after the deregulation of airlines in the 1970s. The annual federal subsidy is $2.9 million, according to the city of Merced.

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. Great Lakes Airlines had served Merced with 12 trips a week to Los Angeles International Airport.

Boutique Air’s flights to Oakland could make it easier for UC Merced officials to travel to the University of California Office of the President, which is based there. Officials at the university have said deans and vice chancellors go to Oakland at least once a month.

The company has committed to marketing its air service with a budget of $104,340 to increase ridership, according to a Merced news release.

Boutique Air operates a modern fleet of Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

Service from Merced to Los Angeles International Airport or Oakland International Airport is set to begin Oct. 5. Flights to McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas begin Nov. 1, the company said in a news release Monday.

Boutique Air offers routes in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nebraska and, more recently, in California and Nevada. Additional routes will be starting in Mississippi and Tennessee, according to the company.

The airline plans to celebrate the launch of its Merced service at 11 a.m. Monday at Merced Regional Airport, 20 Macready Drive, where the carrier plans several giveaways.

To attend, the airline asks for an RSVP by calling 855-268-8478 or by emailing rsvp@boutiqueair.com.

The full flight schedule can be found online at www.boutiqueair.com. For more, go to the site or call 855-268-8478.

Thaddeus Miller: 209-385-2453, @thaddeusmiller

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