Things are on the up and up for the Mid-Delta Regional Airport now that issues hindering the Boutique Airline service have been mitigated.
Airport director Sam Washington along with Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons recently met with Boutique Airlines CEO Shawn Simpson and two members of the airline’s management team – Brian Kondrad and Teresa Mesman.
They discussed concerns over recently delayed and canceled flights as well as various upcoming airport and airline projects.
“Boutique Air is committed to Greenville and the surrounding communities that we serve,” Simpson said. “We regret that the recent schedules have been so badly affected.”
Simpson shared as a company, Boutique is coming out of a very critical time of federally mandated avionic updates on a number of its airplanes and a group of the GLH-DFW-ATL route aircraft were also undergoing maintenance repairs at the same time.
“We had a total of eight aircraft out of service for a time that ran longer than expected,” he said. “The airplane shortage is resolving as the airplanes are coming back into service.”
Regional director Teresa Mesman highlighted the affect the previous government shutdowns had on the airline as well.
“We felt like a rock in a tumbler because we were affected by two government shutdowns which affected the timing of those automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) planes having to be outfitted,” she said.
Mesman explained the shutdown was a huge factor in why the southern region routes were so badly affected.
“The planes that were due to be on the route at the end and the first of the year were swept up into a delayed licensing appointment because of the government shutdown in mid 2019,” she said.
Despite the company’s frustrations with the vulnerability of the routes being canceled, Mesman said they have made progress.
“Now that those avionics have been installed and everything has been updated, the planes are coming back into our alignment and those issues should be a thing of the past,” she said.
Regional manager for the Greenville airport Jonathan Simpson talked about how diligently the mechanics at the company’s maintenance base in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, have been working to get planes up to date and inspected timely and efficiently.
“They are really good at what they do and they’ve really done a good job of getting the planes in maintenance and out quickly, but doing full, thorough inspections,” he said. “They’re checking everything and making sure everything is top notch before they release because we are really big on safety; it’s our number one priority.”
Jonathan added they have a pretty good safety record and they’d like to keep it that way.
“We’ve got two planes in our hangar right now that we’re putting a couple of new engines in and of course that will take some time,” he said.
He also pointed out the maintenance team being instrumental not just for the Greenville operation, but keeping the entire network running and minimizing any delays or cancellations that could happen in other parts of the country.
Also discussed during the meeting was crew shortage issues that are affecting every airline in the U.S.
“We’ve worked very hard to establish a program that will ensure Boutique Air the strongest crew numbers in the Essential Air Service Program and among regional air service providers,” Simpson reported.
Mesman said Boutique’s pilots are dedicated to the Greenville route and quite enjoy it.
“They love coming to Greenville and the community is such a dynamic, progressive community that we have felt the pain of some of these passengers very acutely,” she said, noting some of the issues in the past and how it has affected them.
“We’re making every effort from upper management down to the maintenance ground to the mechanic to address that these are no longer going to plague us,” she said.
Destinations, scheduling and the needs of Greenville’s growing economic development were discussed at length.
“Boutique Air is proud to serve the Mid Delta region and we know that business is strong, thriving and growing in the area,” Kondrad, Boutique Air assistant general manager said. “With the aircraft and crew issues being resolved, Boutique Air will be a stronger presence in the Greenville community than ever before.”
One of the projects kicking off in the next few weeks is the addition of Boutique Car, a rental service, at the Mid Delta Regional Airport.
According to Mesman and Kondrad, Boutique has rental services in Pendleton, Oregon, Clovis, New Mexico, Carlsbad, New Mexico, and Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
“It has worked tremendously well to give another travel option for people in those communities; it gives a lot of benefit to the airport themselves because they have onsite rentals where many airports of the size we deal with are not being serviced by the major car rental companies,” Mesman explained.
Mesman said car rentals add another dimension to customer service in that Boutique can give passengers a fair and flexible option should a cancellation occur or an option for any situation.
“It gives the community a centralized location, especially in the event of a weather emergency, it provides an immediate centralized option for people to step into a rental,” she said. “We value our relationship with our passengers and the City of Greenville … We will continue to diligently work together to make Boutique Air Greenville’s air service partner and increase air travel opportunities for Mid Delta Regional Airport.”