HOT SPRINGS – In an order issued earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation re-selected Southern Airways Express, LLC (Southern) to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) at Hot Springs Memorial Field (HOT) for another two-year term beginning March 1, 2019.
At HOT, Southern will provide 18 weekly nonstop round trips to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) using a nine-seat Cessna Caravan for a first-year annual subsidy of $2,662,717, and a second-year annual subsidy of $2,729,284.
DOT’s order also provides El Dorado and Harrison with weekly nonstop round trips to both DFW and Memphis International Airport (MEM). An earlier DOT order selected Southern to provide EAS at the three cities beginning January 1, 2017.
In selecting a carrier to provide subsidized EAS, DOT considered, among other factors: service reliability; contractual and marketing arrangements with a larger air carrier at the hub; interline arrangements with a larger air carrier at the hub; community views, giving substantial weight to the views of the elected officials representing the users of the service; and whether the air carrier has included a plan in its proposal to market its service to the community. Southern met all the selection criteria.
HOT’s proposed addition of service to Memphis was denied. While the three communities were not awarded their recommended options, DOT did select their carrier of choice, Southern, to provide a “safety-net level of air service enabling passengers to connect to the national air transportation system,” as DOT stated in its order.
Last year, Southern announced a 71% increase in passenger traffic at HOT over the previous calendar year, and the most commercial passengers at the airport since records have been kept, while maintaining a 99% reliability rate.
“We are grateful to have the opportunity to continue to offer high-quality, reliable EAS to travelers coming to and departing from Hot Springs,” said Airport Director Glen Barentine. “Our community endorsed Southern last year by participating in record-breaking numbers. We will continue to seek to add more cities to our EAS program while providing the outstanding customer service our passengers expect and deserve.”