Boutique Air (4B, San Francisco, CA) will commence Essential Air Service (EAS) flights on the Ironwood to Chicago O'Hare and Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) routes from August 1, 2020, replacing Air Choice One (3E, St. Louis Lambert Int'l). The current EAS contract with Air Choice One, which operates from Ironwood 13x weekly to O'Hare and 5x weekly to MSP with its nine-seat Cessna (single turboprop) Grand Caravan fleet, is set to end on July 31 and therefore no service hiatus is expected.

The new two-year contract, awarded by the US Department for Transportation (DOT), will attract a first-year annual subsidy of USD3,593,464 and a second-year annual subsidy of USD3,683,300. The 13x weekly service to O'Hare and 5x weekly service to MSP will be flown by Boutique Air's eight or nine-seat PC-12s.

Other carriers along with Boutique Air that expressed interest in operating the contract included:

  • incumbent Air Choice One, which proposed two options, a 13x weekly and 5x weekly service with its Grand Caravan fleet or a combination of its 19-seat Beech 1900C and the Grand Caravans at the same weekly frequency;
  • Denver Air Connection (KG, Denver Centennial) which suggested 12x weekly to O'Hare with its 30-seat Do328-300s or 50-seat E145s;
  • Southern Airways Express (9X, Memphis Int'l), which proposed three options - an 18x weekly service to O'Hare or MSP or 12x weekly service to O'Hare and 6x weekly to MSP, all operated with its nine-seat Caravans.

In December 2019, the DOT requested community comments regarding this air carrier-selection case. In response, Joseph Bonovetz, Chairman of the Gogebic-Iron County Airport Board, conveyed the Board’s support for Boutique. In his letter to the DOT, Bonovetz cited Boutique's use of the pressurised PC-12s, which due to their speed offered shorter flight times as well as being able to fly higher over the weather as being a critical factor, and said: "The Gogebic-Iron County Airport Board is recommending Boutique Air to be selected for service at the Gogebic-Iron County Airport under Option 2," and Boutique’s proposal “offers the best combination of flight frequency, pricing and amenities...”

In awarding the EAS, the DOT said: "Boutique has interline agreements with American Airlines and United Airlines and was the only carrier to receive community support. Its proposal allocated USD20,000 annually toward a marketing plan that includes various media such as radio, print, TV and internet advertising. Furthermore, Boutique’s proposal is one of the lowest cost options of all the proposals."

Boutique Air operates a fleet of twenty-seven PC-12s, five Beech (twin turboprop) King Air 350s, and two Piaggio Avanti 180s.