MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Southern Airways is expected to retain its standard airline agreement with the Morgantown Municipal Airport.

Approval of the agreement is on Morgantown City Council’s agenda for its first meeting of 2024. The contract builds off the month-to-month contract in place since 2020. The new agreement comes after a new representative from Souther Airways worked on the deal after the original negotiator passed away due to cancer. The agreement will include a month-to-month renewal that was in place in the previous contract and provisions related to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Essential Air Service contract.

“The agreement is only for a year, with the ability to extend month to month, dependent upon the DOT’s award next year for the EAS contract,” said Morgantown Airport Director Jonathan Vrabel.

A renewal of the agreement will allow Southern Airways to continue using space at the Morgantown Municipal Airport. This will account for both operating space outside of the terminal as well as offices within the airport itself. The contract renews landing fees that were a part of both the 2020 contract and the month-to-month renewals.

“This agreement basically is for the use of their office space and operating space here at the airport, it also includes what the landing rate fee is,” said Vrabel.

The contract will be pending federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation related to the renewal of the essential air service provider for the airport. If Southern Airways is not selected or another carrier is chosen as the winning bidder, the contract with the Morgantown Municipal Airport will expire after the end of 2024. Vrabel says those discussions will take place sometime in the fall of 2024.

“This coming fall of ’24, the DOT will rebid the EAS contract,” said Vrabel.

“Whoever that carrier is that’s chosen, if it’s Southern again, their contract will continue, if a different carrier is chosen, we’ll enter into a new agreement at that point,” he said.

According to Vrabel, Southern Airways has expressed a desire to remain a carrier at the Morgantown Municipal Airport despite its financial struggles. This includes pilot shortages and supply chain concerns for replacement parts that have affected the airline since the COVID-19-related shutdowns. While Vrabel did not say to what degree Southern Airways is suffering with its finances, he did say that they’re working to continue to improve operations so another agreement can be made by the end of 2024.

“They’re interested in keeping that commitment here, but they are struggling as a carrier,” said Vrabel. “So our service isn’t where it was a little over a year ago, but they are working very diligently to bring it back to where we were,” he said.