North America

Silver Airways Challenges DOT Carrier Selection for Victoria Essential Air Service

Boutique Air PC-12
Boutique Air PC-12s | TVJ2011 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Boutique Air will be the new airline to service the Victoria Regional Airport, the U.S. Department of Transportation decided earlier this week, overriding the airport board’s recommendation to select another company to provide the service.

Boutique Air plans to provide more frequent air service on a small airplane and will include flights to both Houston and Dallas.

Following the decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) selecting a new carrier to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) in Victoria, Silver Airways will be filing a Motion for Reconsideration with the DOT and petitioning the DOT to stay the current order and re-open bidding.

Silver Airways is challenging the DOT’s determination that service provided by Silver Airways in Victoria would not be more appropriate under federal law and better suits the governmental, business, and leisure needs of this Texas community than the selected air carrier operating a nine-seat aircraft. In doing so, the DOT shunned the recommendation of officials in Victoria and Houston.

Federal aviation law and DOT policies mandate that the DOT give “substantial weight” to the views of EAS communities.

“We are exceedingly disappointed and frankly surprised that the DOT would ignore the strong support and enthusiastic recommendation provided to Silver by political, airport, business, and other community leaders in Victoria and Houston,” said Silver Airways Senior Vice President Kurt Brulisauer.

“Silver was undoubtedly the strongest airline in terms of service and product offering and was the carrier of choice of by the City of Victoria, Victoria County, Victoria Regional Airport, City of Houston, and Victoria Economic Development Corporation. It is a very troubling precedent that the DOT did not follow these community recommendations, which all cited Silver’s larger, 46-passenger ATR aircraft, service to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), and Silver’s numerous interline agreements with larger air carriers at IAH as key reasons for supporting Silver’s proposal.”

According to the airline, with its Victoria bid, Silver Airways was the only carrier satisfying all five of the long-established federal statutory considerations of the EAS program. Instead the DOT focused exclusively on one factor, subsidy amount, in spite of the fact that Silver’s proposal is more cost-effective. Federal law requires the DOT to monitor per passenger costs and caps EAS subsidies based on passengers, not on total cash outlay. “The subsidy per seat for the selected carrier would be 220 percent higher than Silver’s proposal and the government’s subsidy per projected passenger for Silver would also be lower,” the airline said in a statement.

In its Motion for Reconsideration, Silver Airways will petition the DOT to re-select Silver as the EAS provider in Victoria, or alternatively, to provide for an expedited re-bidding procedure.

“We can offer a restructured proposal to the community with a 34-seat Saab 340B+ twin-engine aircraft that would grow traffic in Victoria and better meet the needs and requirements of business and leisure travelers at lower cost per passenger,” added Brulisauer.

Silver is in the midst of a corporate turnaround with a revitalized management team of experienced airline and military leaders, and it intends to supplement its scheduled passenger airline service in the Southeastern United States and the Bahamas to become one of the DOT’s top EAS providers by working in partnership with communities and business partners to grow and develop air service in EAS markets.

The federal government’s decision means that Boutique will serve the Victoria Regional Airport for two years starting Nov. 1.

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