Boutique Air (4B, San Francisco, CA) has been granted a two-year contract to service Altoona in Pennsylvania, starting on January 1, 2021, replacing the current Essential Air Service (EAS) provided by Southern Airways Express (9X, Memphis Int'l).

The contract awarded by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) will run through to December 31, 2022. Boutique Air will use eight or nine-seater PC-12s to provide Altoona with 26 weekly round trips; 13 each to Baltimore Thurgood Marshall and Pittsburgh Int'l. The ch-aviation schedules module confirms the new services are scheduled to operate 13 times weekly (twice daily except on Saturdays) from January 1 to both destinations.

Meanwhile, Southern’s two-year contract, due to have expired on October 1, 2020, was extended to December 31, 2020, at an existing annual subsidy rate of USD2,544,280 for 26 weekly nonstop round trips to both destinations, using nine-seater Cessna (single turboprop) Caravans. The other contender for the EAS contract had been Cape Air (9K, Hyannis) which had proposed operating a nine-seater Tecnam P2012 on the routes.

The DOT endorsed Boutique’s proposal citing the reliability of the Pilatus Aircraft, its MRO base at nearby Johnstown meaning the availability of parts and service, Boutique’s existing interline agreements with American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth) and United Airlines (UA, Chicago O'Hare), thereby generating additional passenger traffic, and Boutique offering a full-service car rental agency.

Boutique Air will receive a first-year annual subsidy of USD2,862,610, and a second-year annual subsidy of USD2,919,862. The DOT acknowledged this was a higher subsidy than other proposals received. Yet, it believed the advantages offered by Boutique provided the best solution to meet the department’s maximum USD200 subsidy per passenger requirement.