MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A one-year contract between the Morgantown Municipal Airport and Southern Airways is getting the all clear.

Morgantown City Council unanimously approved the standard airline agreement, which continues the original contract that has been in place since 2020. The contract also includes an opportunity to extend the contract in 2025, which would be focused on if Southern Airways receives essential air service (EAS) funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The contract was endorsed by Airport Director Jonathan Vrabel ahead of the council’s approval.

“This agreement provides for Southern Airways to continue providing air carrier service from the Morgantown Airport and provides for the lease of the space they use to do that,” said Kay, Casto, and Chaney attorney Ryan Simonton, who represents the City of Morgantown.

Included in the contract between Southern Airways and the Morgantown Municipal Airport are parameters for continued use of operational space and office space by the airline service provider. The contract also places $1.40/1,000 pounds in maximum landed weight for landing fees, common use space fees of $365 per month, and an air carrier space fee of just over $1291.25 per month. The one-year term of the contract stems from pending approval of EAS approval from the DOT for Southern Airways.

“This is initially a one-year agreement, that’s because of the process for renewal for essential air service,” said Simonton.

Federal funding as part of a U.S. DOT EAS contract with Southern Airways is expected to be negotiated in fall 2024. This would require that the Morgantown Municipal Airport average about 10 enplanements per day, with Southern Ariways as the major service provider. In the event that Southern Airways is not selected, the airport will let the contract expire and begin negotiations with another airline service provider. According to Simonton, contract renewals can take place at multi-year intervals.

“There are two, two-year renewal options for the agreement subject to that EAS approval coming through,” said Simonton.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration enplanement numbers released in August 2023, the Morgantown Municipal Airport had 7,272 enplanements with Southern Airways as their main airline service provider in 2022, an average of about 19 flights per day. While this surpasses the DOT EAS contract requirements for Southern Airways, it does not match the 10,000 enplanement threshold required to meet the $1 million allocation mark for the FAA’s Airport Improvement Fund. While Morgantown Airport Director Jonathan Vrabel mentioned at the council’s last committee of the whole that Southern Airways has seen a decline in enplanements in the past year caused by labor and supply chain issues, there’s an expectation that the DOT EAS mark will be reached in fall 2024.

“The process for renewal for essential air service (is) coming up (this fall) in a one-year term through the federal government,” said Simonton.