By Jean Verlich: CNJ news editor
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday its selection of Great Lakes Aviation to continue providing essential air service at Clovis with the expectation of increasing passenger volume, according to documents.
Great Lakes will receive a federal subsidy of $2.36 million annually for air service at Clovis and Silver City to Albuquerque under a two-year contract, retroactive to May 1.
“We expect the communities to work with Great Lakes to do everything possible to increase ridership and passenger utilization of this service,” Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Andrew B. Steinberg wrote in the order.
Great Lakes will operate 12 nonstop round trips weekly between the cities and Albuquerque.
According to the DOT document, Great Lakes receives a nearly $1,000 subsidy per flight.
The City Commission opted for Great Lakes over New Mexico Airlines during a May 17 meeting.
Clovis City Commission’s recommendation of Great Lakes to the DOT came after much debate on the issues of safety and comfort with its aircraft and that of New Mexico Airlines.
Great Lakes flies 19-passenger pressurized Beechcraft 1900D airplanes while New Mexico Airlines was proposing using nine-passenger unpressurized Cessna Caravans.
New Mexico Airlines’ proposal was for a combined annual subsidy of $1.95 million, according to the documents.
New Mexico Airlines President Greg Kahlstorf spoke at the Commission meeting about plans to lessen dependency on the federal subsidy should his airline receive the essential air service contract.
Great Lakes’ director of sales and marketing, Monica Taylor, said Clovis-Albuquerque service will basically remain unchanged but daily Clovis flights to Amarillo and Denver will be discontinued July 1. In their place will be a weekly Saturday flight from Clovis to Albuquerque to Santa Fe and Denver, Taylor said.
The Department of Transportation in April rescinded the original contract awarded to Great Lakes in March after Clovis and Silver City officials complained the majority of the airline’s flights would not be to Albuquerque, where most residents wanted to fly.
Most of the flights from Clovis would have gone to Denver and flights from Silver City would have gone to Phoenix.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.