Silver wings over Johnstown
April 26, 2012
JOHNSTOWN — Silver Airways is coming to Johnstown and Altoona.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has approved Silver’s proposal to take over the subsidized service being handed off by Colgan Air.
Colgan notified the FAA last month that it wants out of the local service, but remains under court order to continue until a replacement is ready.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., airline will receive up to $3,997,187 a year in federal Essential Air Service subsidies to operate 18 flights a week between Johnstown-Altoona and Dulles International Airport near Washington. It includes three flights each weekday, one on Saturday and two on Sunday.
Colgan has operated the United Express commuter flights since December 2002.
Silver Airways has a maintenance facility in DuBois and operates regional flights from Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport to DuBois, Bradford and Franklin airports in Pennsylvania.
Local airport leaders have been cautiously optimistic that Silver will be able to address schedule and cancellation issues that plagued the local commuter service during Colgan’s tenure. But they have stressed the importance of a “code-share” agreement with United.
The agreement would allow Silver flights to operate under the United Express banner and tap into United’s ticketing and baggage transfer system at Dulles.
In awarding the contract Thursday, the Transportation Department noted, “While we understand that this proposal is contingent upon Silver Airways’ obtaining a United code-share agreement to include the Altoona and Johnstown flights, we are optimistic this can be achieved, given that Silver has an existing United code-share at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport.”
The award document notes a concern about ridership levels from Altoona-Blair County Airport. New Essential Air Service rules limit subsidies to $200 a passenger for airports within 210 highway miles of the nearest large airport.
“We fully expect the community and airline to work together to maximize the use of the service to ensure the subsidy per passenger is $200 or less,” the order says.
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