JAMESTOWN – The pending deal to bring San Francisco-based Boutique Air to Chautauqua County’s main airport is now in the hands of federal officials.
Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello said that he is waiting for the Department of Transportation in Washington D.C. to approve the Essential Air Service (EAS) deal.
“Right now, it is a matter of a waiting game for them to approve it,” said Borrello. “We want them to see the great business model that was submitted.”
Borrello said Boutique Air has a great track record of service, unlike Southern Airways, who previously served the area.
“The program (EAS) subsidizes flights, not passengers,” said Borrello. “Southern Airways was creating flights with not enough people on them.”
“Southern was trying to get as many dollars as they could without meeting the numbers in hopes that they would continue to get waivers. That’s not a good business model; that’s why they were pulled.”
Borrello explained that the county airport is a true asset to the county. Flyers can park for free. People can also check-in a half an hour before at the local airport rather than traveling to Buffalo two hours ahead of time.
“Boutique has many advantages over the previous airline, but one of the new ones is they have a full coach share agreement with United Airlines,” Borrello said.
The Executive explained that passengers will be able to seamlessly fly on Boutique through the United Airlines system to anywhere United serves.
Currently, Boutique plans on routing flights to Pittsburgh, PA as Southern did previously.
Borrello did address the idea that officials should close the airport, rather than keep it alive via a government subsidy. He explained that the FAA will not allow the county to close the airport at all.
“It is nearly impossible to close an airport in the United States,” said Borrello. “Doing things at an airport is much more costly. For instance, when you pave a road that is one thing; when you pave a landing strip at an airport, it is five times the cost.”
Borrello said the FAA should either give the county the tools to run the airport, i.e. the Essential Air Service program they requested, or allow them to close it, something the FAA will not let happen.
The Executive is thankful for Congressman’s Tom Reed’s part in trying to return EAS to the area.
At this point, all residents can do is wait for federal approval.