With opposing recommendations from Imperial Valley entities, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has selected Mokulele Flight Service as the operating air service for Imperial Valley for a two-year period from May 1, 2016 through April 30, 2018.
Mokulele will provide 24 nonstop round trips per week to Los Angeles International Airport using a nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravan 208-B or 208-EX aircraft, at an annual subsidy rate of $2,440,634.
This recent decision followed when SeaPort Airlines abruptly suspended its subsidized air service on January 15 without the requisite 90-day advance notice to the Department, thereby leaving El Centro without any scheduled air service.
Mokulele competed and beat out two other airlines, Boutique Air and Great Lakes Aviation. However, the Valley had opposing recommendations with the cities of Imperial and El Centro recommending Mokulele, and the Imperial County supervisors voting unanimously for Boutique.
In a letter dated February 18, Jason Jackson, mayor of El Centro, provided support for Mokulele. In that letter, Jackson explained, “This option better meets the needs of our community, offering convenient access to the Los Angeles area with 24 round trip frequencies a week to LAX.”
In contrast, Jesus Terrazas, chairman of Imperial County’s board of supervisors, wrote a letter dated March 1 that spoke of a public meeting held February 23 during which the Board of Supervisors unanimously recommended support for Boutique Air’s proposal.
In that letter, Terrazas stated, “The Board is encouraged by Boutique Air’s commitment to work closely with the community in determining schedules, additional airport connections, and to help market the airport locally.”
After carefully reviewing the proposals, the Department of Transportation decided to select Mokulele for a two-year term. The DOT listed five reasons: reliability, hub connections, interline connections, community support, and community marketing.
According to DOT, Mokulele has a proven record of providing reliable service at Kamuela, Hawaii, for several years, and has interline and marketing agreements currently in place with Alaska Airlines and other air carriers. Further, Mokulele proposed a marketing plan using local newspapers, radio, and television advertising. Mokulele’s proposal was fully supported by the City of El Centro and the City of Imperial, and requested the least amount of subsidy.