At the end of the Monday, Sept. 18, business day, the Department of Transportation (DOT) closed the bidding for the Essential Air Service (EAS) contract for Greenbrier Valley Airport.
Four airline response packages were received and reviewed by Greenbrier Valley Airport Director Stephen Snyder and the Greenbrier County Airport Authority (GCAA) at the board meeting held Tuesday, Sept. 19. SkyWest Airlines came out head and shoulders ahead of the other bids as the best and most complete option. The GCAA unanimously approved SkyWest’s EAS proposal for the Greenbrier Valley Airport. Snyder said the GCAA will send DOT a letter of recommendation for SkyWest to replace Via Airlines.
“We cannot speak for the DOT with regard to Via Airlines,” Snyder said, “but, obviously, the DOT and Via will need to have a conversation. The best case scenario is that SkyWest could be in place as our EAS provider in 90 to 120 days.” It takes that long for systems to be put in place, he said, “provided, of course, that DOT is not opposed to replacing Via.”
As a United Airlines affiliate, SkyWest flies as United Express on behalf of United. The service will be marketed as United Express and will feature seamless bookings, connections, and baggage transfers that will access United Airlines’ global network. This includes over 5,400 daily flights to more than 370 airports. United is also the largest member of the Star Alliance network, which allows travelers to connect to more than 22,000 daily flights to nearly all parts of the globe. This connectivity makes it simple for passengers to plan their travel and is a key factor in the area’s continued economic development, according to the proposal letter.
Air service will be provided using the Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ200), a 50-seat aircraft with twin jet engines. SkyWest has been named the most reliable CRJ200 operator in North America five times since 2007 and is one of the largest domestic operators of this reliable, comfortable aircraft type. SkyWest operates nearly 200 CRJ200 aircraft and plans to keep this modern, quiet jet aircraft in their fleet for many years to come.
In summary, SkyWest promised to work with both the Staunton, VA and Greenbrier/White Sulphur Springs communities and airport partners by dedicating marketing resources to promote the flight, ensuring successful increased passenger traffic in each community.
The proposal continued, stating SkyWest will offer 12 round-trip flights per week for a two year term in both communities, departing and arriving to facilitate seamless connections to United’s large and diverse flight schedule in both Washington and Chicago, making the service convenient for both business and leisure travelers. United and United Express offer more than 600 departures per day at Chicago O’Hare and more than 250 departures per day at Washington Dulles. A significant increase in passenger traffic is expected to occur in both the Staunton, VA and Greenbrier/White Sulphur Springs communities, the letter recounted.
The GCAA meeting was attended by The Greenbrier Chief Operating Officer (COO) Elmer Coppoolse and Greg Furlong, vice president of sales and event services, and Convention and Visitors Center Executive Director Kara Dense, who confirmed their endorsement of the news.
The development with SkyWest will surely prove to benefit not only The Greenbrier, but also The Homestead and Snowshoe resorts, Snyder said, and bookings for group events are likely to see an up-tick with the promise of reliable connectivity for planning conventions events and other activities, all of which are essential for developing economic growth in the area. “SkyWest’s alliance with United will give Greenbrier Valley a level of service not seen in decades,” said Snyder.