“Greenbrier Valley Airport is exceptionally pleased to announce the “OFFICIAL” DOT selection of United/SkyWest service for Lewisburg beginning on Apr. 1, 2018,” Airport Director Stephen Snyder announced Tuesday, Nov. 21. “We appreciate the support of everyone who has helped make this possible.”
The U.S. Department of, Transportation (DOT) released the order on Nov. 20, declaring SkyWest Airlines, Inc. to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) at Greenbrier/White Sulphur Springs, WV and Staunton, VA, for the two-year period from Apr. 1, 2018, through Mar. 31, 2020.
SkyWest will provide each community with six nonstop round trips per week to Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORO) and six nonstop round trips per week to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD); a total of 12 total nonstop round trips per week per community, using 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet 200 (CRJ-200) aircraft, at an annual subsidy rate of $3,994,423 at Greenbrier, and $2,992,903 at Staunton.
The release of this DOT order followed a notice to terminate by Via Air on Nov. 2, submitted to the DOT stating its intention to tenninate all EAS at Greenbrier and Staunton, effective Apr. 1, 2018. Via Air had been under contract for both airports to provide EAS from Oct. 1, 2016, through Nov. 30, 2018. Via was to provide each community with 12 nonstop round trips per week to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), using 50-seat ERJ-145 aircraft, at an annual subsidy rate of $4,731,866 at Greenbrier, and $3,797,780 at Staunton.
Requests for proposals of EAS were issued by DOT, and in response, Greenbrier received four bid proposals, including from SkyValue Airlines, Boutique Air, SkyWest Airlines, and Ultimate Jetcharters.
SkyWest’s proposal stood out from the rest by offering full interline ticket and baggage agreements in place with United, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. SkyWest’s proposal also included $20,000 per community for marketing campaigns to advertise the air service.
In a letter dated Sept. 20, to the DOT, Snyder stated, “Greenbrier County Airport Authority met on Sept. 19 in a public meeting and has unanimously voted to accept the bid set forth by SkyWest Airlines.”
The DOT decided to select SkyWest as the EAS replacement carrier because its proposal aligns well with all five factors that 49 U.S.C. Code 41733(c)(l) directs the department to consider (A) service reliability; (B) contractual and marketing arrangements with a larger air carrier at the hub; (C) interline arrangements with a larger air carrier at the hub; (D) community views, giving substantial weight to the views of the elected officials representing the users of the service; and (E) whether the air carrier has included a plan in its proposal to market the service.
The other proposals lacked one or another of the five requirements, and therefore, did not meet the requirements of the DOT.
Per the written notice by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Susan McDermott, the Department finds SkyWest Airlines, Inc. fit, willing and able to operate as a certified air carrier, and capable of providing reliable Essential Air Service at Greenbrier/White Sulphur Springs, WV and Staunton, VA.
The Department expects Via Air and SkyWest to work together to make a smooth transition at the both communities, with Via Air ending service on one day and SkyWest inaugurating service the next day. In that regard, before Via Air suspends its service, it must notify any passengers holding reservations for travel after the termination date, assist those passengers in making alternate air transportation arrangements, or provide a refund of the ticket price, without penalty, if requested. Stating that “This is an absolutely thrilling time” for the Valley with official DOT selection of the new EAS provider, Snyder said. An official press release with SkyWest will be forthcoming, along with information on schedules, ticket information and pricing. Tickets sales should be available by January 2018. SkyWest’s goal, he said, is “to get everything up and running as soon as possible.”