County petitions for EAS subsidy again

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ALAMOSA — Even though the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) granted an Essential Air Service (EAS) waiver for San Luis Valley Regional Airport last year, the agency is once again tentatively terminating eligibility due to low enplanement numbers in the 2016 fiscal year. Last year's waiver only applied to the 2015 fiscal year.

EAS provides the airport a $200 per passenger subsidy, or more, depending on qualifications. The subsidy then goes to the airline as an incentive to use the airport.

Last year the subsidy was in jeopardy because the airport is only 205 miles from Albuquerque International Sunport. The Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act states that only airports 210 miles away from a larger airport can exceed the $200 cap. The waiver allowed it to go over to $268 a ticket to make up the difference from Great Lakes Airlines' frequent cancelations and low passenger numbers.

Before Boutique Airlines took over last October, Great Lakes had 2684 enplanements for the entire time they were in service in 2016. In the remaining three months Boutique almost reached half that amount with 1169 enplanements.

Including figures only up until the end of August, Boutique has had 4337 enplanements so far this year.

Alamosa County Administrator Gigi Dennis has reached out to community members to sign letters of support and SLV Regional Airport Manager Dustin Allinger is composing his response to DOT.

"The numbers we'll be able to show are greatly improved upon from when we had it with Great Lakes," Dennis said to the Alamosa County Commissioners during their meeting on Wednesday, "and so we feel good about how we're going to be able to present this but we’re back in that fight again."

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