Bidding begins for air service contract

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

The city’s air service provider will be bidding for another two-year contract, according to Great Lakes Airlines spokeswoman Monica Taylor.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is accepting bids for a two-year contract for commercial air service to Albuquerque from Clovis and Silver City, according to a news release from the office of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.

The bidding process started Dec. 23 and will continue until Feb. 3, according to Department of Transportation Spokesman Bill Mosley.

Mosely said the contract is for 12 round trip flights a week to Albuquerque. He said bidding airlines must offer pressurized aircraft with at least 15 seats. But communities can waive that requirement, he said.

The department will subsidize the winning bidder under the essential air service program, he said. The program was established to provide commercial air service in rural communities.

He said the subsidy amount will depend on financial need. Great Lakes Aviation received a $2.3 million subsidy under its present contract with the department, according to Mosley.

Clovis Municipal Airport Director Steve Summers said once the bidding window closes the department will make a final ruling after a 30-day public comment period.

Great Lakes Airlines has provided flights out of Clovis since 2005.

New Mexico Airlines, owned by Pacific Wings Holdings, competed against Great Lakes Aviation for the contract in 2007.

The city of Clovis recommended Great Lakes Airlines to the department because it offered 19-passenger Beechcraft 1900D pressurized aircraft.

New Mexico Airlines flies unpressurized, nine-seater, turbo prop Cessna Caravans but offered flights to other destinations including El Paso, Lubbock and Santa Fe, according to a Department of Transportation summary of the 2007 bids.