By Samuel Strait, Report at Large – January 20, 2021

The following is the second part of a two part series on the Del Norte
County Regional Airport.  To recap, we now have a new underutilized
terminal that will require a stable commercial airline in order to pay
down the debt from construction of the terminal.  We are currently
serviced by Contour Airlines with one thirty passenger flight per day to
Oakland, California.  The maximum enplanements for Contour would be
10,950 per year.  Thus far they achieved 5,907 in nine months of
operation in 2018 and 9,144 in the entire year of 2019.  If these
numbers continue, it begs the question why a new terminal was given
priority.  There is no data for 2020, but expect a sharp decrease due to
Covid-19 restrictions.  Contour Airlines has recently been renewed on an
AEAS contract for four years thru October 31, 2024.  Contour has in the
past year suspended service in eight of their current markets.

The terminal itself, a total of nearly $20,000,000 in construction and
development costs , is expected to pay that debt with a service fee paid
by commercial air passengers.  No commercial passengers, no money to pay the debt, so hopefully Contour Air will stay in service for a very long
time.  As I stated in part one, the one route it services is to Oakland,
California at fares between $90 and $179, which is very reasonable if
you do not factor in a subsidy of $336 per seat occupied or unoccupied. 
What that means is that if Contour Air were to offer it’s services to
Oakland as a normal non subsidized airline, the fare to Oakland would be
somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 to $700 per seat.  Fortunately
that is not the case.

What is troubling in spite of the recent contract signing, Contour Air
has experienced difficulties maintaining its routes in unprofitable
locations, three in California and one in Nevada in the past year.  It
continues to have a limited capacity for growth in this market,
something that is essential for the airport to move towards a longer
runway.  More importantly Contour Airlines does not appear to be
interested in moving from Oakland citing cost.  For an airline that
touts it customer service, this seems to be an odd stance.

Once the new terminal was completed and Contour Air was installed until
2024, the BCRAA seems to have lost the imperative of a longer runway, 
better service to a larger market and a non stop to Sacramento.   Much
of this hesitancy can be laid at the feet of the uncertain future of air
travel itself.  If it were to press forward for the longer runway and
was successful, the Airport Authority would have a better chance of
attracting service from a broader array of airlines, one of which would
offer the destinations most useful for growth at the airport and in the
county as well.  The current situation is only marginally acceptable
providing Contour Airlines is able to continue service.  As long as the
Authority continues to sit on its hands nothing further will develop.

2 thoughts on “PART TWO: Our Airport”
  1. Excellent article. The air service in Crescent City has been terrible since United left. The connection to Oakland is a joke. If you live in Southern California, connections to Oakland are not easy. Plus, once you get to Oakland you had better plan on waiting quite a while to get to Crescent City. Like Hours!!! One flight from CC to Oakland and one flight from Oakland to CC a day is not practical or convenient. I will continue to fly to Arcata or Medford, (which I do at least 2 times a year and more before Covid) until something is done to improve flights to and from Crescent City.

  2. What a great article. I just so happened to review the Del Norte Budget for 20/21. Apparently, there was this meeting of the heads on September 22 or 28, 2020. Within the meeting minutes i found some distressing news regarding the airport. Now this is straight out of the meeting minutes so don’t whip the messenger.

    “After 2 years of not being in the position to pay the annual airport terminal loan payments Border Coast Regional Airport authority will be transferring funds to the County.” So what does that mean?

    The Del Norte Supervisors under DAve Finigan took $2.8 million dollars from the Stimson fund to build the $20 million dollar terminal writing a contract for the County to pay $100,000.00 per year for 20 years. After all it is only $2.8 million. The BCRA was supposed to have all these partnerships to chip in, but after lying to the Brookings City Council, who had donated about $500,00 only to be told,”… oh that was for….” the Brookings City Council politely said “No” when BCRA asked for more. very exciting to watch. After that no more partnerships. So who got stuck with the bill to have such a pretty terminal? yep, we the people. Our own supervisors and city council get caught going to Medford to fly out. Why? because of the inconvenience of the flight and the added cost.

    Well we can expect much of the same in the years to come.

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