City Commission approves Hays Regional Airport’s contract with SkyWest

Image courtesy Hays Regional Airport

By DYLAN SWIHART

Tiger Media Network

Jamie Salter, the director of the Hays Regional Airport, presented three new Essential Air Service (EAS) contracts to the City Commission on Thursday – Denver Air Connection, Boutique Air, and SkyWest Airlines. 

Salter began with a background of the EAS program, explaining how it is administered by the US Department of Transportation. 

“[The air carrier subsidizes the flights] for communities like our smaller communities, rural communities, communities that wouldn’t necessarily have air service if the program didn’t exist,” Salter said.

Hays Regional Airport’s current EAS contract is with SkyWest Airlines, who are obligated to provide 12 flights per week, and that contract expires on July 31, 2024. After hearing the proposals, commissioners approved the motion to reselect SkyWest Airlines 5-0.

Hays Regional Airport received three proposals for the new contract that would go into effect on August 1, 2024. These proposals were:

  • SkyWest Airlines
    • Requested annual subsidy average of $6.5M
    • 12 weekly flights to DEN – CRJ200 (50-passenger jet aircraft)
    • Annual available seating capacity: 62,400
    • 3-year contract
  • Denver Air Connection
    • Requested annual subsidy average of $8.2M
    • 12 weekly flights to DEN – ERJ145 (50-passenger jet aircraft)/DO-328 (30-passenger jet aircraft)
    • Annual available seating capacity: 37,440 – 62,400
    • 4-year contract
  • Boutique Air
    • Requested annual subsidy average of $7.1M to $7.6M
    • 28 weekly flights to DEN or MCI – P180/PC-12 (8 to 9 passenger prop aircraft)
    • Annual available seating capacity: 23,396 – 26,208
    • 4-year contract

Being a part of the EAS program, the Hays Regional Airport is entitled to twin-engine service. Since Boutique Air aircraft are single-engine, they do not meet the minimum standard. 

“We have never waived that right. I would not suggest or recommend waiving that right,” Salter said. 

Salter asked the commission for their support of the new contract and keeping SkyWest Airlines. 

“They’ve provided safe, reliable service,” she said.

SkyWest Airlines has been at Hays Regional Airport since 2014 and Salter pointed out they had the lowest requested subsidy amount and the most seat capacity guaranteed. 

Community comments will be submitted to the USDOT on March 11, and according to Salter, the input from that is the most heavily weighed. 

USDOT will select a carrier in Spring 2024 and the new contract will go into effect on August 1, 2024. 

Commissioner Reese Barrick moved to authorize the Mayor to submit a letter of recommendation for the reselection of SkyWest Airlines. Commissioner Alaina Cunningham seconded the movement. 

Other items discussed at the meeting: 

  • Water conservation updates and 2024 programs
  • Approved Engineering Service Agreement for development of The Grove
  • Authorize the City Manager to enter a Developer Agreement with WDG
  • Awarded a bid to purchase a new solid waste baler
  • Approved a resolution adopting an amended Neighborhood Revitalization Plan. 

The next city commission meeting will be held at 4 p.m. on March 14 at City Hall.

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