The staff at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport and the Jackson-Madison County Airport Authority has seen a drastic situation with its new airline, Boutique Air, and it’s prepared to take a drastic measure.
Since Boutique Air began flying out of McKellar-Sipes in June of this year with regular flights to St. Louis and Atlanta, the company has been consistent with flight delays and cancellations, and according to a statement from the airport, the situation took a turn for the worse last week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
"It has become obvious that Boutique Air's expansion from the West Coast into the Southeast during the pandemic, worker shortages, and air travel restrictions just hasn't worked out." said Jackson-Madison County Airport Authority Executive Director Steve Smith in a statement. "It was the perfect storm.
"We heard from our customers. We are as concerned as they are, and they can rest assured we are taking every step necessary to provide them with a reliable consumer air service in the very near future. We have contacted Boutique Air, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Essential Air Service. The process for accountability and/or replacement is underway."
Smith has requested Boutique Air withdraw from the Jackson market.
According to the statement from Smith, “dozens” of travelers were stranded at McKellar-Sipes last week due to delays and cancellations.
Boutique Air was one of five services bidding for the McKellar-Sipes Airport Air Carrier business.
They were recommended by the Jackson-Madison County Airport Authority committee, and the Department of Transportation selected Boutique Air for a two-year period from June 1, 2021, through May 31, 2023.
At the time of the March 18th order, the DOT noted that Boutique Air, Inc. is "fit, willing, and able to operate a commuter air carrier, and capable of providing reliable Essential Air Service at Jackson, Tennessee."
One of the Essential Air Service requirements, however, is that the carrier provides "service reliability."
Smith says their track record this year violates that requirement.
"There have been far too many instances of delays and cancellations," Smith said.
After contacting Boutique Air, Inc. and the Department of Transportation, there are three options for the next step:
the DOT may order Boutique Air to cease operations at McKellar-Sipes,
the DOT may force Boutique Air to continue operations until a new carrier is chosen,
the DOT may require Boutique Air to fulfill their contractual obligations regardless of circumstances.
"Either way," said Smith, "our focus is on providing air travelers with exceptional service at McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport. Anything less is unacceptable, and we just won't tolerate it."
This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: Boutique Air no longer welcome at McKellar-Sipes Airport