Air service in trouble?

Air service in trouble?By BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

The Inyokern Airport may be burning through the grant funds that keep its current commuter air service afloat. This news came during Tuesday’s Indian Wells Valley Water District meeting during General Manager Don Zdeba’s report.

According to Zdeba, Indian Wells Valley Airport District Boardmember Russ Bates reported that “commercial air service is not meeting its target for passenger traffic.”

IYK contracted with San Francisco-based airline Boutique Air to restore air service in early August. The airport has been using its grant money to subsidize flights in order to reestablish the local market.

The airport was able to leverage a grant awarded through the Department of Transportation, augmented by some $100,000 in community contributions, to entice the airline to our remote market. However, the airport’s agreement guarantees a minimum number of passengers for each flight — regardless of ridership.

“As a result, they have to pay for each of the empty seats on every flight so they’re burning through that $450,000 grant,” said Zdeba. “They anticipate using that up in the next four months if things don’t change.”

According to his discussions with airport personnel, Zdeba said that roughly 120 people leave the valley every day for flights.

“If they could just capture a few more of those, it would help to support the airline,” he said.

However, reports have been circulating that customers are frustrated with some of Boutique’s rigid policies — including those that prohibit booking flights more than two months in advance.

Thursday evening’s meeting of the airport board included a closed-session discussion scheduled for negotiations with Boutique Air. Inyokern Airport General Manager Scott Seymour declined to comment, and results of that discussion were unavailable at press time.

UPDATE: AFTER THE NEWS REVIEW WENT TO PRESS THIS WEEK, WE LEARNED THAT THE INYOKERN AIRPORT BOARD VOTED TO END ITS CONTRACT WITH BOUTIQUE AIR, FOLLOWING A 60-DAY NOTICE. SEE FUTURE EDITIONS FOR DETAILS.

Story First Published: 2017-10-13