Southern Airways Express gets committee recommendation for Quincy Regional Airport service

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Southern Airways Express will fly a single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan in and out of Quincy if FAA gives its approval. Photo: airliners.net

QUINCY — Quincy’s Aeronautics Committee has recommended Southern Airways Express to be the city’s next Essential Air Service provider.

The unanimous recommendation came during a late Wednesday afternoon meeting inside City Hall. The measure now moves to City Council, which meets at 7 p.m. Monday. 

Formal approval of Southern Airways Express must be okayed by the federal government, specifically the Department of Transportation.

Alderman Dave Bauer (D-2nd Ward), who chairs the Aeronautics Committee, said if City Council approves the recommendation the Department of Transportation would likely give its approval by October.

“All the City Council will be doing is making a recommendation,” Bauer said. “The ultimate decision is made by the government.”

Southern Airways Express, based out of Palm Beach, Fla., chosen over San Francisco-based Boutique Air.

Gabe Hanafin, interim director at Quincy Regional Airport, said 18 flights per week to each Chicago and St. Louis would be provided by Southern Airways Express.

Southern Airways Express has proposed a four-year deal to provide Quincy with service, utilizing Cessna Grand Caravan planes with two pilots. Boutique proposed a two-year deal with two pilots aboard Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

Neither airline offered a twin-engine plane option, with their officials citing economics and the short-distances the planes would be flying as their basis for going with single-engine aircraft.

The current Essential Air Service provider for Quincy, Cape Air, announced in May it would be pulling out of Baldwin Field. By law, Cape Air, which is in the first year of a four-year agreement with the city, is obligated to provide service until a replacement is found. If the replacement process drags on, however, there is a good chance Cape Air, headquartered in Barnstable, Mass., would continue to downsize the number of flights in and out of Quincy, according to Bauer.

Mayor Mike Troup spoke on the importance of the issue, noting “people will find alternative (travel routes)” without the availability of utilizing Quincy Regional Airport.

“It’s a challenging issue,” Troup said.

Ron Frillman, a committee member, was impressed by the guaranteed/fixed rates of Southern Airways Express. He also noted the company has established gates in Chicago and St. Louis. He felt Boutique had a more limited access to the region and would charge higher rates.

“Southern seems to be more established (within the region),” he said. 

During his presentation at Monday night’s Public Forum on the issue, Mark Cestari of Southern Airways Express said the airline has also taken over EAS at other small regional airports where Cape Air, as well as Boutique Air, have pulled out.

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