Feds appoint JetBlue to serve Presque Isle airport

3 weeks ago

The U.S. Department of Transportation has named JetBlue as the Essential Air Service carrier for the Presque Isle International Airport.

Passengers from the Star City will now have direct flights to Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Today’s decision caps off three months of back-and-forth among airline representatives, city officials and residents over which airline and single hub destination would best serve local passengers. United Airlines flies to Newark, New Jersey, while JetBlue would travel to Logan. Presque Isle’s Airport Advisory Board favored staying with United, which has served the airport for six years, while the city council preferred JetBlue because of public support for Boston flights.

“According to the USDOT, JetBlue has been chosen as the carrier to PQI for a two-year term,” said Kim Smith, Presque Isle resource development and public information officer, in a statement late Tuesday afternoon. “The Presque Isle to Boston flight would connect to 69 cities. Service is scheduled to begin on Sept. 1.”

The airport falls under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service, created by Congress in 1978 to ensure smaller communities have at least minimal airline services. The subsidies make the remote, relatively small Aroostook County airport attractive to air carriers. 

Four bids came in this year: United, linking to Newark; JetBlue, connecting to Boston; American Airlines, with Philadelphia as the hub; and Boutique Airlines, which also would connect to Boston.

“​​JetBlue will be providing service initially using an Embraer E190 jet seating 100 passengers with seven non-stop round-trip flights per week to Boston,” Smith said. “In year two of the contract, JetBlue plans to upgrade to an Airbus A220-300 jet seating 140 passengers.”

The city’s airline analyst, Jack Penning of Volaire Aviation Consulting, projected in March that JetBlue would fill the greatest number of seats at 73,000 per year, followed by American with 61,800; United with 60,650 and Boutique with 39,312.

In making its decision, the transportation department considers five factors. In order of importance they are airline reliability, connections to a network of destinations, interline agreements with other airlines, community input and marketing.