Written by Al Stover
The Department of Transportation selected Hyannis Air Service Inc., D/B/A Cape Air, to provide northeast Montana with air service.
According to documents, Cape Air’s Essential Air Service contract is expected to run Dec. 1 to Nov. 30, 2015, at a combined annual subsidy $11,950,426.
Nine-passenger Cessna 402 aircraft will be will be provided for Glasgow, Glendive, Harve, Sidney and Wolf Point. There will be two daily round trips from Wolf Point to Billings. Sidney will have five round trip flights a day under the contract.
Cape Air was one of three companies who had made bids to take over the contract. Boutique Air Inc. submitted a proposal consisting of three options. Great Lakes Aviation Ltd. presented a proposal that would provide air service to Glendive and Sidney on a stand-alone basis.
The department had sent letters to members of the Montana EAS Task Force that detailed the proposals from the air companies and asked them for proposals. They received a letter 10 days later, saying that Montana communities voted in favor of Cape Air’s first option.
Cape Air began serving customers in 1989. Over the years, they have expanded with over 60 planes and fly up to 850 flights a day.
According to Trish Lorino, Cape Air’s managing director of marketing and public relations, Cape Air anticipates having 50 full-time employees based in Montana.
In a statement, Cape Air president Linda Markham said the company is “thrilled” to have been selected to provide service to northeast Montana.
“Cape Air is proud to be able to offer reliable, affordable air service that connects rural cities to our nation’s air network,” Markham said. “We look forward to starting up and investing in these communities.”
Prior to Cape Air, the department selected Silver Airlines in February 2011 to provide air service to these cities, as well as Lewistown and Miles City, for a two-year period.
The department terminated the eligibility of Lewistown and Miles City in June under the EAS program after the department learned that both cities exceeded the average subsidy per passenger per flight of $1,000. Both cities had filed a petition for reconsideration on July 2. On Aug. 22, Lewistown filed a motion to withdraw its petition. Miles City made the same motion six days later.
In June, Silver filed a 90-day notice to terminate its subsidized service contract, which would have been effective Sept. 26.
Since the department would have not completed the carrier-selection process, they extended Silver Airline’s obligation to Glasgow, Harve, Sidney and Wolf Point for 30 days after the 90-day notice period, which would have been Oct. 26, to ensure no break in air service to the communities.
The department expects that Silver and Cape Air will work together to ensure a smooth transition and that Silver will notify passengers holding reservations for travel after their suspension date and assist passengers in making alternative travel arrangements or refund their tickets without penalty.