By Curt Peterson and Polly Mikula
Cape Air Airline has a challenger for providing service between Logan Airport and Rutland-Southern Vermont Regional Airport from San Francisco’s Boutique Air. The proposed contract would provide flights for two years starting Nov. 1.
Flying with a regional airline is a unique convenience for a rural area and boon for the Rutland region. Cape Air has provided this service since 2007 with three flights per day. But the two-carrier battle is welcomed by Rutland City Mayor David Allaire. Boutique Air began bidding for the contract two years ago. Allaire said the competition may benefit area travelers and visitors.
Advantages Boutique claims include faster flights and more comfortable accommodations. Their Swiss-made eight-passenger, turbojet single-engine Pilatus PC 12 planes have pressurized cabins, enabling them to fly above weather, wider leather seats, onboard bathrooms and faster cruising speed, allowing for shorter flights.
Cape Air’s new Tecnam craft won’t have pressurized cabins, but Shannon Yeager, director of Tecnam Aviation US, said the Traveller is scheduled to begin flying for Cape Air Nov. 1 and will be able to fly at 9,000 feet, the maximum altitude without pressurization, with full passenger comfort. Yeager told the Mountain Times, Cape Air’s Traveller could also sport leather seats.
The brand new Italian-made Tecnam P2012 twin-engine, nine-passenger planes have a cruising speed of 190 knots, still slower than Boutique’s Pilatus at 285 knots. Cape Air schedules its flights for about an hour. If Boutique shortens the flight proportionately to relative cruising speeds, the time saved would be about 20 minutes.
Regarding safety, airlineratings.com gives Cape Air the highest 7-star rating. The organization doesn’t rate Boutique, but the company advertises its safety record as “flawless.”
Rutland Economic Development Corporation Director Tyler Richardson told the Mountain Times the U. S. Department of Transportation will make the final decision regarding which airline is awarded the Rutland-Boston contract, but the DOT will give the Rutland selection committee’s recommendation considerable weight. The committee is considering all factors, including quality of service, cost, and safety to determine what’s best for the greater Rutland community. They plan to submit a recommendation by the end of the month.
According to this year’s proposals, Boutique would use $4,033,087 in federal subsidies for a two-year period while Cape Air’s would use $3,456,833 in subsidies.
In Rutland the subsidy totaled $3.3 million for the last two years, or about $148 per passenger, reported VPR.
Richardson said any costs incurred in changing air service would not accrue to local taxpayers. Ticket prices would stay similar for both airlines, with fares ranging from $49-$99 to fly one-way between Rutland and Boston.
Cape Air reported over 10,000 passengers every year since 2010, with 2018 being their best year with 11,018 passengers.