Boutique Air. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos County Airport Manager David Ploeger announced today that he received a letter Thursday evening from Shawn Simpson, CEO of Boutique Air, terminating Boutique’s contract with the County to provide air service from Los Alamos to Albuquerque.
Boutique and the County entered into a contract last November to provide three flights a day between the Los Alamos airport (LAM) and Albuquerque Sunport (ABQ).
The letter came after conversations between Simpson and Ploeger about low passenger counts for the commercial airlines service and the need for Boutique to reposition the plane that had been serving Los Alamos for higher, more efficient usage in other cities served by Boutique.
Boutique has expanded its flight offerings rapidly in the last year, primarily to cities that qualify for federal FAA funds under the Essential Air Service grant program.
LAM does not qualify for this type of grant and the County had entered into a contract to subsidize the service for approximately $550,000 per year. For many communities, providing air service is a key area for economic development; companies evaluating site options consider easy access to air service an important consideration. Air service also provides another transportation option for residents and businesses.
Under the contract with the County, either party has the ability to terminate with 15 days written notice. Simpson said that flights are booked through the month of April and therefore Boutique expects to fly the LAM/ABQ route through April 30.
In recent months, the County had been exploring expansion of service to add a flight to Denver – the most frequent suggestion from residents anxious to see a convenient connection to Denver International Airport, which offers frequent flights to both east and west coasts.
Entering into a contract for Denver service with any airline would be subject to a competitive bid process, funding appropriated from the County’s budget with a subsidy to offset the cost of the flights, and Council approval of the budget and a new contract.
“It’s unfortunate that we were unable to quickly generate the interest and increase in passenger counts during the early days of providing this new air service, which has resulted in Boutique’s business-driven decision to terminate the contract,” Ploeger said “Launching this new service during what is typically a slow time for business travel between November and December, along with weather delays or cancelations beyond Boutique’s control because of our active weather pattern in January and early February certainly made this start-up even more challenging. I personally heard from many customers who had tried the new service that they really enjoyed the flights and convenience.”
Ploeger added that the working relationship with Simpson and the Boutique staff – including pilots for the airlines and customer service agents at the LAM terminal – had been professional and cordial throughout the contract.
Ploeger also stated that “the County has been exploring grant opportunities to extend air service to Denver and should a grant be awarded in the future, we remain optimistic that we would receive a proposal and have a continued professional relationship with Boutique.”