June 15, 2008

Colgan Air to Continue Service to Presque Isle Airport

By Jen Lynds, Bangor Daily News, Maine

Jun. 14--PRESQUE ISLE, Maine -- Flight service in and out of Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle will change very little in the next few years now that a contract between Colgan Air Inc. and the airport has been renegotiated.

In March, Colgan Air announced that it would rebid the majority of its Essential Air Service, or EAS, routes. The Presque Isle airport is one of those routes.

The Essential Air Service statute provides federal subsidies for airlines to serve smaller communities that otherwise would not have air service. According to a statement from the airline, the statute does not include a way for those airlines to seek relief from changes in expenses, such as dramatic increases in fuel costs, unless the airline files to vacate a community and rebid a new contract.

Scott Wardwell, director of the Presque Isle airport, said the company therefore had to conduct a "procedural move" that included filing to leave the community and rebid a new contract in order to cope with rising fuel costs.

That was done and the airport is now through the contractual process, he said, adding that a new contract between Northern Maine Regional Airport and Colgan Air is effective until May 2010.

Colgan Air Inc. serves the EAS communities under the US Airways Express and United Express banners. Pinnacle Airlines Corp., an airline holding company, is the parent company of Pinnacle Airlines Inc. and Colgan Air Inc.

The Presque Isle airport offers nonstop service to and from Boston's Logan International Airport aboard US Airways Express Saab 340, a 34-seat turboprop. The airplane departs for Logan several times each day.

"We went through the bid process at the end of May and Colgan was the only bidder on our market," Wardwell said. "The process went very smoothly. They got the contract for the next two years."

Under the new contract, the airport will see the same number of flights, but some of the airplanes will change. Wardwell said Colgan Air is phasing Beech 1900 airplanes out of its inventory, so it will no longer be flying the aircraft into Presque Isle. Instead, the Saab 340 -- which currently flies into the airport and holds more passengers than the Beech 1900 -- will continue to serve the airport.

The Beech 1900 is a 19 passenger twin-turboprop.

"That probably is the only difference that fliers are going to notice as a result of this new contract," Wardwell said. "In reality, it is a better situation because the Saab 340 has always been here and the Beech 1900 will no longer be here. ... But air service into our airport is assured for the next two years."


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