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Boutique Air takes to Merced skies August 1

Mike Conway

Post Date:06/17/2015

Merced's new air carrier offers 31 flights to three cities

Boutique Air has been awarded a two-year contract to provide air service between Merced, Los Angeles International, Oakland International and McCarran International Airports.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Essential Air Service to Boutique Airlines to provide 31 non-stop round trips a week starting August 1. The annual subsidy for the service is $2,991,546.

Boutique is replacing Great Lakes Airlines, which served Merced with 12 trips a week to Los Angeles International Airport. Schedule reliability was one of the reasons Great Lakes was not recommended for the new Essential Air Service contract.

City Manager John Bramble called the Boutique Air proposal, 'A very attractive package that we believe will well serve Merced and the Northern Valley.'

There will be 12 non-stop trips per week to Los Angeles International Airport, 12 non-stop trips per week to Oakland International Airport and seven non-stop trips per week to Las Vegas-McCarran International Airport.

The Oakland flights make it easier for UC Merced officials to get to the University of California main offices, Bramble said, which are based in Oakland. Oakland offers flights across the country, to Europe and to Hawaii.

The selection committee liked the number of flights, the airports served and reliability, plus Boutique's commitment to marketing its air service. The carrier plans to spend $104,340 to market its flights to the community to build ridership.

There were five carriers who submitted proposals to the Department of Transportation. Besides Los Angeles, Oakland and Las Vegas, other cities that were proposed for service were Burbank and Sacramento. Boutique offered the most flights and the most cities served.

Boutique will fly using an 8 or 9-passenger Pilatus PC-12 aircraft that is a pressurized Swiss-made turbo-prop plane with a restroom.

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