Mokulele Airlines (MHO, Kona) has won the Essential Air Services (EAS) contract for El Centro Imperial Country the US Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced.

The Hawaii-based carrier's two year-long contract begins on May 1 and will run through April 30, 2018. For the duration of the contract, Mokulele will receive USD2.44 million in annual subsidies from the DOT. Mokulele will connect El Centro with Los Angeles Int'l with forty-eight weekly return flights operated by Cessna (single turboprop) Grand Caravan 208 equipment.

Other contenders for the contract, vacated by SeaPort Airlines (K5, Portland Int'l) in January, included Great Lakes Airlines (ZK, Cheyenne) and Boutique Air (4B, San Francisco, CA).

Visalia, which was part of the original proposal, has opted out of the EAS programme in favour of the joining the Community Flexibility Pilot Program (CFPP). The CFPP requires cities to forego EAS, and subsidized air service in general, for ten years years in favour of a direct payment of two years’ worth of subsidies. In Visalia's case, it would receive USD3.7 million in funding that can then be used to improve airport infrastructure.