Window for public comments on air service to close next week

Posted Feb. 03, 2012, at 5:08 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 16, 2012, at 2:38 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Only a short window of time is left for individuals and businesses to review the applications submitted by four air carriers looking to provide services to airports in Presque Isle and Bar Harbor.

Four carriers have submitted bids to provide service to Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle or to Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton under the Essential Air Services Program.

Colgan Air, which operates as U.S. Airways Express in the region, petitioned the U.S. Department of Transportation in September to end its service between Boston and Presque Isle and between Bar Harbor and Boston, sometime this year. Colgan Air expressed a desire to close its Boston office because the market that it serves has become smaller.

Under federal Essential Air Service regulations, the airline would not be allowed to leave until a replacement is found. But there has been concern that smaller airplanes might be brought in to provide that service.

In Presque Isle and Bar Harbor, Colgan Air offers business and leisure air travelers nonstop service to and from Boston’s Logan Airport in a 34-seat Saab 340 turbo jet prop.

The four bids to replace Colgan are from Air Choice One of St. Louis, Mo.; Cape Air of Hyannis, Mass.; Peninsula Airways of Anchorage, Alaska; and Sovereign Air of Minneapolis. Cape Air has bid only on servicing the Bar Harbor airport, according to the proposal. Cape Air now is the EAS provider at airports in Augusta and Rockland.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud all have spoken to officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation, stressing the importance of finding cost-effective, convenient carriers to service the airports. They also stressed the importance of the new EAS provider using aircraft large enough to fly directly from Presque Isle to airports outside of Maine without having to stop in Bangor or Portland to refuel.

Snowe said in a statement that she was “extremely pleased” that multiple carriers had submitted bids.

After the bids were submitted the U.S. DOT opened a 30-day public comment period that ends Feb. 7. This allows for individuals and businesses to review the submitted applications and voice their opinions and provide information on topics related to the applications and air service.

Snowe said that the review process will evaluate the applications as well as the public comments, with a final decision expected as early as April.

Mainers are welcome to submit comments to the DOT regarding the selection of a new air carrier service in Presque Isle and Bar Harbor. Comments are due to the Department of Transportation and must be submitted to EAS@dot.gov.

All four proposals can be viewed online at http://snowe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=air-service-for-maine.

CORRECTION:

An early version of this story requires correction. Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport has never offered flights to Plattsburg, N.Y. It offers daily flights to Logan Airport in Boston.

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