Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Jan. 5 @ 2:25 p.m.

Airport Authority Votes To Terminate Contour Contract; Advanced Air Will Offer Flights From Del Norte To Oakland, LA Starting March 17

Based in Hawthorne, Advanced Air will serve the Wild Rivers Coast using a 30-seat Dornier 328 jet. | Images courtesy of Advanced Air


Advanced Air Proposal for Crescent City

BCRA Jan. 3 Agenda Packet


(Updated at 10:16 a.m. Monday. Though it's expected that Contour will refund travelers for tickets booked after March 16, that hasn't been confirmed yet, Airport Director Ryan Cooley said.)

(Updated at 1:22 p.m. to correct Advanced Air's name in the headline.)

Contour Airline’s days of providing service between Del Norte and Oakland are numbered, but denizens of the Wild Rivers Coast will still be able to fly to the Bay Area from Crescent City.

Residents will also have a direct link to the Los Angeles area through Advanced Air, which will take over from Contour starting March 17, Border Coast Regional Airport Authority Director Ryan Cooley told the Wild Rivers Outpost.

The Hawthorne-based carrier will be flying into the municipal airport that serves that community and is about five miles from the Los Angeles International Airport, according to Cooley.

“When you have two destinations that opens up a lot of potential,” he said. “And Los Angeles being so far down south allows the opportunity to bring more tourism from that area to us.”

The transition to a new carrier comes after the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority Board voted unanimously Wednesday to terminate its contract with Contour effective March 16. The airport authority’s contract with Advanced Air starts March 17 and lasts through Sept. 30, 2024, when its current U.S. Department of Transportation grant expires.

The joint powers authority that includes representatives from Del Norte and Curry counties, Brookings, Crescent City, Elk Valley Rancheria and the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation aims to enter into a new agreement with Advanced Air starting Oct. 1, Cooley said.

In a news release Thursday, Cooley said it's expected that travelers will receive a refund from Contour Air for tickets booked after March 16. But that hasn't been confirmed yet.

Based in Smyrna, Tenn., Contour had provided service to Oakland through the federal Essential Air Service program grant since 2018.

The U.S. Department of Transportation had provided the BCRAA with financial assistance under the Alternate Essential Air Service program, which granted about $14.7 million to the airport over four years.

In a Wednesday letter to Mark Raggio with the Essential Air Service office in Washington D.C., BCRA Chairman David Finigan said there was an estimate of about $2.2 million in the remaining grant subsidy for between March 17 and Sept. 30.

According to Cooley, the decision to contract with Advanced Air was based on a study conducted by Volaire Aviation Consulting. In that study, Volaire found that two operators, Contour and Advanced Air have 30-seat regional jets that can serve Del Norte County, according to Mike Mooney, the firm’s managing partner.
Boutique and Southern operate single-engine planes and Cape Air has a twin-engine 9-seat aircraft.

Mooney said that Boutique and Southern would likely submit proposals to the BCRAA if it went through a conventional Essential Air Service bid process in September. But since Crescent City has never had Essential Air Service provided by a single-engine aircraft the airport authority can decline a proposal from them.
Cape Air is based in Boston and has no operations west of Chicago, Mooney said.

“Nine-seat aircraft of any type are not an ideal solution for Crescent City,” Mooney said in a Dec. 19 letter to Cooley. “Overall seat capacity would decline. Service to any hub, [Oakland, Sacramento or Portland], would involve long flight durations without an onboard toilet. From time to time there would be baggage limits. And the FAA would eventually challenge continuing airport maintenance at current levels due to the airport’s primary aircraft type being 9-seat types.”

Contour CEO Matt Chaifetz said while he’s sure the airport authority’s decision to go with a new carrier isn’t due to performance concerns on his company’s part, the timing is perfect. Contour will be serving communities in Utah in February, each getting their own plane starting in March. The carrier has grown since it began serving Del Norte County about six years ago, and the Crescent City to Oakland route largely sits by itself, he said.

Chaifetz said he told Cooley that he couldn’t commit to re-bidding on the AEAS contract when it came up for renewal in September. That depended on the carrier’s resources and where they could best be deployed, he said.

“The Crescent City route is on an island." Chaifetz told the Outpost. “We have a plane base there that goes to Oakland, but it’s not connected to anything else in our network. It’s more efficient for our aircraft and crews to be in a base where resources can be shared.”

With the BCRAA serving communities between Klamath and Port Orford, its own growth was paramount and was the reason for the Volaire Aviation study, Cooley said. Most travelers in the Wild Rivers Coast region fly to the Los Angeles area out of the Rogue Valley International Airport in Medford, the airport authority director said, citing the Volaire study.

The Bay Area is the No. 2 destination for travelers from the Wild Rivers Coast region, Cooley said.

One of the selling points for Advantage, whose representatives introduced themselves to local officials in October, is the opportunity to bring more tourists to the region, Cooley said. The carrier has two 30-seat regional jets and in the winter offers flights to the Mammoth Yosemite Airport.

“It just opens up a real potential for the community in terms of destinations and tourism into and out of our area,” Cooley said.

Cooley said Advanced Air also owns the terminal they fly into in Hawthorne — Jet Center Los Angeles — and will provide shuttle service to LAX for those with connecting flights. The airline will load up passengers’ luggage and then ferry them over to the ticket counter to get their flight out of Southern California, he said.

“Right now when you fly into Oakland, you have to pick up your baggage, re-check it in with whoever you’re flying out on,” Cooley said. “Some people will take the BART over to San Francisco and fly out of SFO. Hawthorne would be similar, but you wouldn’t have to find an Uber or a taxi.”

Kelly Schellong, Crescent City’s representative on the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority Board, said the transition to Advanced Aviation is about providing better service and more options for the local community. According to her, one of Advanced Air’s priorities is to build interline agreements with other carriers in Oakland, “which we’ve never had before.”

Schellong said they’re also trying to establish a relationship with Rogue Valley International Airport so one of their planes can fly into Medford should flights out of Del Norte be delayed or canceled due to weather.

“They haven’t committed to this, but it’s something they’re looking into,” Schellong said. “The other thing that will benefit us is they will have to planes available should one fail mechanically.”

In its agreement with the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority, Advanced Air has committed to providing $30,000 in local marketing and advertising. When he visited the area in October, Levi Stockton, the carrier’s president and founder, said the carrier had been interested in Crescent City for a long time.

“At its basic core, our business plan is to partner with communities that have growth potential and fall within our current service area to ensure we provide a high-level product,” Stockton said in October. “Crescent City checks those boxes and provides an exciting opportunity to leverage the airport as an economic tool for growth.”

While he’s excited for the opportunity with Advanced Air, Cooley said Contour served Del Norte County well.

“We’re so very thankful for Contour’s years of service [through] ups and downs, including the pandemic,” Cooley said. “They continued service through the pandemic and continued to serve us during the wildfire season we had to go through. We’re just excited about potential new opportunities.”


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