PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — On Thursday, Presque Isle released a list of airlines bidding to provide Essential Air Service to and from Presque Isle International Airport beginning in July 2020.
The three airlines placing bids were Southern Airways Express, Silver Airways and current partner United Airlines.
The three airlines all differ in their flight destinations and requested subsidies. Southern Airways would fly to Logan International Airport in Boston, and potentially to both Boston and Portland International Airport, on their nine-seat aircraft. Silver would fly to Boston on their 34-seat planes. United would continue to fly to Newark Liberty International Airport on their 50-seat aircraft.
Silver requested the lowest subsidy, an annual rate of $4.4 million, and United the highest, at $6.8 million. Southern Airways’ subsidy would range from $5.4 million to $5.8 million in the first year, and $5.6 million to $6 million in the second year, depending on the option Presque Isle chooses.
United’s bid was $1.6 million higher than the winning bid they played for a two-year contract in 2018, something acknowledged by the airline in their proposal. They attributed this to a recognition of the “economic reality” of continuing service in Presque Isle.
Southern Airways is offering three different proposals. Option A would feature 30 weekly round trips to Boston. Option B would see 19 trips to Boston and 19 trips to Portland. Option C includes 24 trips to Boston and 14 trips to Portland.
The pamphlet highlighted the airline’s accomplishments in the field of Essential Air Service. It listed a graphic highlighting its low cancellation rate — 100 percent or near 100 percent, in all of its Essential Air Service flights from January to October this year. They are pledging a completion factor of 98 percent if they receive the bid.
The average fare also differs for each of the proposals: $139 for Option A, $119 for Option B, and $124 for Option C.
The proposal said that the “community” would decide the option of choice.
Silver Airways proposed to operate 12 round-trip flights from Presque Isle to Boston each week. Their proposal highlighted its many flights across Florida and the Caribbean, its frequent flyer program agreements with JetBlue, Delta, American and United, and the focus their company puts on adhering to safety standards.
In its proposal, United highlighted the amount of access their services provide to airports across the country. Their plan underscored the status of Newark and United Airlines as an “international connecting hub.”
Besides the more substantial subsidy, United is also requesting the amending of the contract to 23 months (ending May 31, 2022) — before the peak summer demand period — as doing so would make any transition to a new airliner easier.
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The city of Presque Isle released the proposals on their website and Facebook page to encourage public viewing. The U.S. Department of Transportation is directing comments and questions about the proposal to Michael Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city of Presque Isle will hold a public forum on the bidding at 6 p.m. Jan. 3, 2020, at Presque Isle Middle School. It’s expected that Presque Isle City Council will make a recommendation on Jan. 8, 2020.
Though the Presque Isle City Council will make a recommendation, the decision on the bids is ultimately up to the DOT.