The United States Department of Transportation selected SeaPort Airlines to provide air service to Visalia Airport. The order, issued on December 11, approves the recommendation submitted by the Visalia City Council following its 3-2 vote on September 12.
The December 11 order states: “By this Order, the Department is selecting SeaPort Airlines, Inc. (SeaPort) to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) at Visalia, California, for the two-year period beginning January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016. SeaPort will provide 12 nonstop round trips per week to Oakland and 12 nonstop round trips per week to Burbank (24 total round trips per week), using 9-seat Cessna Caravan aircraft, at an annual subsidy rate of $1,990,563.”
EAS is the federal program that guarantees a certain level of scheduled air service to communities that would otherwise have lost access to the nation’s air transportation system in a deregulated airline industry.
It should take 45 to 60 days for SeaPort to provide its first flights to and from Visalia, according to Visalia Airport Manager Mario Cifuentez, who explained that the airline is now able to acquire aircraft, hire pilots and schedule flights. “Everything was contingent on the awarding from the Department of Transportation.”
In the next two weeks, Cifuentez expects to have a clearer vision of when SeaPort will provide local service.
Although the order includes a starting date of January 1, the contract will run for two years from the date that SeaPort actually begins service to Visalia, according to Cifuentez.