Boutique Air (4B, San Francisco, CA) has been awarded the Essential Air Service (EAS) contract for Muscle Shoals, Alabama following SeaPort Airlines' termination of flights in late October.

In its decision, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) said the Californian carrier would operate twenty-four weekly return flights to Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson and/or Nashville Int'l using a PC-12. The contract, valued at USD2,779,632 annually, will run from February 1, 2016 through to February 28, 2018.

Three other carriers submitted proposals including Air Choice One (3E, St. Louis Lambert Int'l), Corporate Flight Management (LF, Smyrna), and Sun Air Express (6G, Fort Lauderdale Int'l) though ultimately Muscle Shoals municipality came out in favour of Boutique Air as its proposal was deemed to be the best suited to local demand.

SeaPort Airlines, the contract's original winner, blamed its pull out on a pilot shortage caused by new US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations requiring First Officers to have a minimum of 1,500 hours ATP experience to operate for a Part 121 airline.