EL CENTRO – SeaPort Airlines presented an enticing proposal to the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday. Although it is the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) that signs contracts and chooses which airlines service the Imperial County Airport, a letter from the Board carries considerable weight in the decision making.
SeaPort Airlines, Inc. is a scheduled commuter airline headquartered in Portland, Oregon which operates scheduled flights to 20 cities in 8 states, including operations in Southeast Alaska that continue to do business as Wings of Alaska.
SeaPort representatives explained how they become involved in the community, join chambers, put on Easter egg hunts, plus they have a sterling record of safety and service to their communities. They said they service many communities, similar to the Imperial Valley across the United States.
They said their success has hinged on focusing on having the right sized aircraft, maximum frequency of flights, with lowest possible fare. They want to accommodate the needs of the community, such as having extra runs for bigger events such as graduation and Cattle Call.
SeaPort explained to the board that their tickets are globally distributed, available online, or through organizations such as Expedia or Orbitz, and that they go into main terminals.
Supervisor Michael Kelley asked, “Are you saying you have Interline agreement with major networks? You did not have this at last year’s proposal.”
Their proposal included five round trips a day rather than 2 now offered by the current airline at Imperial Airport, more jobs since they will open a downtown office, and a Spanish speaking service.
When questioned about the plane they would use for the county, they explained that since the DOT did away with their 15 seat requirement for communter airlines, they planned to use the Cessna Caravan. The Caravan is in current production and Cessna builds one hundred a year and it can carry 9 passengers, 2 pilots and all baggage in the cargo bins.
This is the same plane Fed Ex uses as their transportation plane. The turban engine is state of the art and has an excellent safety record.
SeaPort, if given the contract, will offer the airport three options, all flights to San Diego, or the flights split between San Diego and Phoenix, or San Diego and Burbank, which SeaPort prefers.
The board was told that the Yuma airport services Phoenix, and instead of duplicating their service, if you offer Burbank/LA you could draw Yuma customers to Imperial. They said Burbank has major airline connections to New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and Sacramento.
SeaPort promised lower fares than are currently being offered, but will have an introductory airfare of $39 for one month to whatever city they fly into from Imperial.
Gary Wyatt, District 4, said, “You listened from last year to this year, to our concerns about inner connections and the security issues and made the appropriate changes. This sounds very promising.”