Sky Fight! Boutique Air vs. Vegas McCarran Airport

Part 135 operator Boutique Air has thrown down the gauntlet before McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, by publicizing a feud over Boutique’s desire to operate scheduled service into McCarran. In an open-letter email from Boutique Air CEO Shawn Simpson to Clark County Director of Aviation Rosemary A. Vassiliadis, Simpson says the airport (LAS) is being downright discriminatory.

Boutique Air had planned to begin service from Merced, California to LAS on Sunday, November 1st, but there is currently no flight schedule on their website. The airport states that Boutique many only fly sterile operations into LAS, at Terminal 1. The airline wished to operate non-sterile flights, into a FBO.

Boutique Air 2

In his letter, Simpson points out, “We have never encountered any resistance by any airport in conducting scheduled service between smaller communities with larger hubs, until now…The problem is that it is not the place of a public airport funded by federal tax dollars, to tell an airline what type of operations they are willing to accept. It is the duty of a public airport to accommodate all operations that are safe and do not disrupt the normal operation of the airport.  Somehow none of the other airports where we conduct non-sterile operations [including DFW and ABQ] have a problem with us. In fact, they welcome us.”

Simpson also notes that McCarran has been the recipient of federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants for runway and taxiway refurbishment for the past five years, amounting to over $109 Million. The reception of AIP grant money prohibits LAS from being discriminatory with its policies, but Simpson alleges that because the customers from Merced would be mostly Hispanic, that they’re being shut out: “What I am hearing though, is that the largely Hispanic community of the Central Valley will not be allowed to fly into McCarran via Merced because Boutique Air is not allowed to come in non-sterile.” Simpson goes on to day that Boutique is on the verge of serving the Native American community of Gallup, New Mexico, where they would potentially want to offer flights to LAS.

McCarran accepts the non-sterile operation of dozens of private jets each day, to and from FBOs, but the scheduled operation of Boutique’s single-engine Pilatus PC-12s is for some reason forbidden, other than being “against airport policy.” The latest response from LAS told Boutique Air that if they want to offer non-sterile flights to Vegas, perhaps they should use North Las Vegas Airport. A win for Boutique Air in Las Vegas would be a win for the air travel consumer.