County Seeks Waiver from DOT to Keep Air Service in Imperial County



EL CENTRO – Subsequent to receiving a “Final Order Terminating Eligibility” letter from the U.S. Department of Transportation advising on the possible termination of Imperial County’s Essential Air Services, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting Tuesday afternoon and voted unanimously to approve and authorize the county’s CEO to submit a Petition for Waiver to DOT seeking to retain flight services at the Imperial County Airport.

On August 29, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a tentative order to terminate Imperial County Airport’s Essential Air Services (EAS) eligibility, along with 22 other communities, for failing to meet “an average of ten enplanements per day, during the most recent fiscal year” and for exceeding “per passenger subsidiary amount” of $200.

“Fortunately, communities subject in the tentative order may petition DOT for a waiver of the enplanement requirement, if the community can demonstrate that the reason the location averages fewer than ten enplanements per day is due to a temporary decline in enplanements,” said Ralph Cordova Jr., Imperial County executive director.

Ryan N. Hall, Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) Regional Aviation Planning specialist, agreed to assist in preparing the petition for the waiver. After reviewing the EAS standards, he advised the board that it was determined the requirements were not met and was confident the DOT would reconsider the county’s petition.

Rob McKinney, Mokulele Airlines president, was present during Tuesday’s meeting and provided an overview of the airline’s flight services to date and assured the board the months DOT used determined the Imperial County Airport did not meet the average enplanements, but included the gap time from the closure of Seaport Airlines to the day Mokulele commenced services. McKinney was the president of Seaport Airlines during its tenure in the Valley.

“We are well over the ten enplanements per day, which Seaport was really never able to do,” said McKinney. “The reason why we are successful is LAX is a superior hub than Burbank in meeting the needs of the community.”

McKinney also pointed out Mokulele has not cancelled any flights since they began servicing the county and said they have completed 99 percent of scheduled flights with a 90 percent of on-time flights.

“We have a compelling story to tell,” said McKinney. “Let the next chapter be a waiver.”

Furthermore, McKinney expressed Mokulele’s interest in expanding air service to Mexicali claiming it is a big market they would like to explore.

Mokulele Airlines began services in Imperial County on May 23, subsequent to the unexpected closure of Seaport Airlines on January 15.

Mokulele Airlines
The family-owned and operated airline has quadrupled daily flights since 2011 when Hansen purchased the airline from Mesa Airlines. Mokulele has been in business since 1994 and is based at the Kona International Airport with approximately 250 employees.