Air service resumes Aug. 8

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Air service  resumes Aug. 8“I purchased the very first ticket leaving IYK on the very first flight!”

Inyokern Airport General Manager Scott Seymour, after nearly four years of endeavoring to restore air service to the remote installation, announced in an e-mail to local media this week that residents and visitors to the Indian Wells Valley can begin purchasing tickets now at www.boutiqueair. com for flights to Los Angeles International Airport beginning Aug. 8.

Earlier this month, the IWV Airport Board voted 3-0 to contract service with Boutique Air, a San Francisco-based airline owned by former Google employee Shawn Simpson.

Seymour said that the Pilatus PC-12 will seat eight passengers.

“This is the Mercedes of aircraft,” said Seymour. “It’s a smooth ride in a pressurized cabin that’s going to be almost twice as fast as the other aircraft we were looking at.”

An introductory price of $89 for a one-way ticket will be offered indefinitely, with departures from IYK at 6:15 a.m. and 2:10 p.m. daily. Return flights from LAX, arriving at 1:40 p.m. and 6 p.m., are only $84.51. Refundable tickets are available for a higher cost.

The loss of air service was the result of converging crises — ranging from a loss of ridership during the federal travel freeze to an erratic pricing scheme by the previous carrier. IYK’s attempts to restore service were further complicated by a destabilized commuter industry that saw carriers pulling out of markets across the country.

After two unsuccessful bids in 2014 and 2015, IYK was awarded a Department of Transportation grant last year in the amount of $450,000 to help reestablish the market. Local businesses and individuals kicked in an additional $100,000 in matching funds.

Seymour said the airport is using that money to subsidize the introductory ticket price. Since the airline is guaranteed a minimum revenue of $1,375 per flight, IYK will dip into the grant money to make up the difference for the near future.

“We are still working out a lot of the details,” Seymour said. He said he hopes that by the end of the year ticketing can be done through Boutique’s agreement with United Airlines, which means that federal employees will be able to purchase tickets through Department of Defense travel system.

Seymour said that baggage agreements are still being refined so that travelers will not need to collect and recheck baggage on connecting flights.

“I know we will never be able to please everyone, but the feedback I have received has been mostly positive,” he said.

“The Pilatus has an excellent safety record, and the flight will be a very comfortable and positive experience.”

Seymour said that if the current level of service at IYK is successful, he hopes to expand the schedule.

“We have already talked about adding another flight, and we are looking at a possible flight to Las Vegas as well.”

“Whether that service thrives and possibly expands will greatly depend on the residents of the Indian Wells Valley and neighboring communities,” said Paul Valovich, airport board president.

“There is no cheap, magic solution for airline service. Revenues from ticket sales must provide adequate incentive for Boutique to continue Inyokern operations.”

“The Indian Wells Valley Airport District and the community have worked hard to reclaim air service and we at Boutique Air are honored to be chosen to offer reliable, affordable service,” said Simpson.

“We have been fortunate enough to serve many small communities across the U.S., bringing them air service they can rely on, and we are confident we will do the same for the Indian Wells Valley community.”

Pictured: Interior view of one of the Pilatus PC-12s in Boutique Air’s fleet — which will soon be making regular departures out of IYK. -- Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2017-07-21