In a public release on July 28, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a request for proposals from air carriers across the country interested in providing Essential Air Service (EAS) at Greenbrier Valley Airport (GVA) as a replacement for Via Airlines.
The request follows a roundtable meeting held at the Visitors Center on July 13, when Greenbrier Valley Airport Director Stephen Snyder requested, on behalf of the Greenbrier County Airport Authority, that the DOT issue a request to rebid Via Airline’s contract, with the support of civic officials and representatives of interests in the community.
Among those supportive entities, noted in the DOT document, are House of Delegates Representative George Ambler, the Greenbrier County Commission, Rainelle Mayor Andrea Pendleton, Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Andrew Hagy and Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau Board Chair Mike Kidd.
Via’s air service at Greenbrier, the document stated, “has received numerous reports about poor service in terms of cancellations, on-time performance, and other service-related issues.” Via Airlines was selected by the DOT to provide 12 nonstop round trips per week to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, using 50-seat ERJ-145 aircraft, at an annual subsidy rate of $4,731,866.
The DOT asked that air carriers file their proposals no later than Sept. 18, 2017, for a new contract term, with or without subsidy support. The start date for the new contract term, as noted in the DOT bid proposal, would not begin until Dec. 1, 2018.
Greenbrier Valley Airport Director Stephen Snyder, who indicated at the July meeting that, after a rebid of the Via’s contract, new air service could begin as soon as November of this year. The delayed timing of the start date prompted concerns by the press. Snyder was questioned about the December 2018 start date in the bid proposal by the Mountain Messenger.
“You are correct in your reading of the bid document,” Snyder stated in an email. “The DOT is essentially putting our contract on the street much earlier then [sic] normal. They clearly understand our problems with the carrier and our community’s ability to survive the storm of unreliable service. I will have to let the Department’s document speak for itself, but I can assure you, we are on the correct track.”
The December 2018 start date was based upon the expiration date of the contract with Via Airlines to provide EAS at GVA for the period from October 1, 2016, through November 30, 2018.
However, the proposal further stated that by Order 2016-9-10, “when circumstances warrant, the department can find replacement service prior to the end of the current contract.” The DOT “will assess concerns with Via’s service, and the possibility of replacement service for Greenbrier at a later date.”
“We want to thank each and every person who has supported our efforts,” Snyder said in a statement to the press. “This [rebid proposal request] gives our region exposure to airlines nationwide as we seek to improve our service and grow our economy.”