by Ryan Burns
A deal has been struck. American Eagle, a subsidiary of American Airlines, will start direct flights between the Arcata-Eureka Airport and Los Angeles International Airport on June 14. The company is expected to formally announce the deal via press release on Monday.
Details remain sketchy. County staff has been working furiously with the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission (RREDC) to come up with a $1 million revenue guarantee -- one of several prerequisites set forth by American Airlines for coming to Humboldt County. (Read more here.)
RREDC's board of directors is scheduled to authorize a contract for the guarantee at its Monday meeting. (You can download the agenda here.) Public Works Director Tom Mattson was not immediately available for comment.
The deal comes amid labor disputes and merger/takeover talks with US Airways. American declared bankruptcy last November and continues to work through corporate reorganization. That process might eventually lead American to sell off American Eagle, the subsidiary company that will provide local service.
When the Journal talked to American Airlines Market Development Manager Brett Hooyerink earlier this week he said that, prior to declaring Chapter 11, American was planning to sell off American Eagle by the end of last year.
Those plans are now on hold indefinitely, Hooyerink said, adding that a sell-off would have no effect on the local market. "The reason for divesting is to make American Eagle more competitive," he explained. As a separate company, American Eagle could provide regional flights for mainline carriers besides American Airlines -- in the same manner that SkyWest operates flights locally on behalf of United Express.
At the March 20 meeting of the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, Public Works Director Tom Mattson said round-trip tickets to L.A. are expected to cost between $250 and $400.
Memo to SoCal bivalve fans: Your direct 90-minute flights up here start two days before the 2012 Arcata Oyster Festival. Just sayin'.
We'll pass on more details as soon as we get 'em.