City to continue with Contour Airlines

By Bob Hembree
Posted 5/23/24

Contour Airlines was in the hot seat over the recent uptick in flight cancellations. The Page City Council considered cutting the city’s contract with Contour short and requested bids (RFP) …

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City to continue with Contour Airlines


Contour Airlines was in the hot seat over the recent uptick in flight cancellations. The Page City Council considered cutting the city’s contract with Contour short and requested bids (RFP) from competitors.

What resulted was a council meeting showdown between Contour and Advanced Airlines. Both airlines presented strong, detailed arguments why council should choose their service over the other. Both contrasted their competitor’s weaknesses with their strengths. Like David versus Goliath, the smaller Advanced Airlines with two 30-seat jets (one needs an engine) took on the larger Contour Airlines with 26 30-seat jets and interline relationships with American and Alaskan Airlines. The Council, after meeting in an executive session, unanimously chose to stay with Contour.

Contour Aviation CEO Matt Chaifet attributed flight cancellations to an accident in Phoenix. An aircraft tug crashed into Contour’s spare 30-seat jet. “We've historically maintained a spare aircraft in Phoenix to support our west coast flying,” said Chaifet. “So without the spare aircraft the aircraft serving the Page route had a mechanical issue. We sent a part via Southwest Cargo to the aircraft except Southwest mishandled the part and couldn't find it. So on the next day we sent another part for delivery the next day and that part broke while being installed on the airplane. So now we're into Day Three without the spare aircraft and it resulted in a string of cancellations.”

Councilor Brian Carey said his attempts at communicating with Contour were ignored. Chaifet said a recent 25% buy-in from another company was the reason he didn’t respond to Carey.

Chaifet presented data showing Contour’s reliability compared to other airlines. On average, the airline has around a 96% completion rate with about 85% of those flights arriving on time, a better record than most major airlines.

The Chronicle spoke with Mayor Bill Diak about the decision. “Contour had two years left on their contract. We exercised the clause in there to review and ask for RFPs in between.”

Many Page residents and visitors were affected by Contour’s cancellations. “They always leave someone in a bad position when that does happen,” said Diak. “So there was, I think, a little bit too quick decision to go out for an RFP, and maybe they thought that Contour wasn't as responsive as they would have liked them to be.

“We had citizenry, myself included, that had been impacted by that and they're saying, ‘Well, they're canceling all these flights.’ Well, they're within the same ratios of the industry standard. When you're only flying that one airline and they're doing 24 flights, if you’re a regular flyer, you're going to see that impact more often.

“I think it also helped Contour understand that we were serious about wanting our service to be as best it can be. I thought it would probably be a three to three vote or three to four vote or, you know, one way or the other. But in the end it came up to be a unanimous vote and in favor of keeping Contour. And I'm glad that came out that way because I think that means that we did the decision right. We didn't have any people that were questioning it. But I think the deciding factor was the fact that Contour’s interline ability is huge. And it not only serves our regular flying, most of them are flying to Phoenix and back, but occasionally they're flying elsewhere to visit family or whatever. They can book continuous Contour through American, anywhere in the world for that matter. And that is a big thing.”

Diak believed problems could have easily been avoided if Contour communicated with the city. “The thing is they didn't notify us. If they would have called and maybe said, ‘Hey, look, this is what we got going on,’ then maybe we could have been aware of the situation. It only comes up if that instrument light went out. ‘We can't fly.’ And you know, all airlines take things extremely seriously. When they down a plane for a mechanical issue, it could be for the minutest thing. But they do their due diligence. I totally agree with our people locally more because they fly it all the time for business, visit family, doctors’ appointments, all of those things. And then because of the small airline and the number of flights, it's that low percentage that 7% is going to hit you more often. So we were getting a lot of complaints and majority of all of those complaints came in the month of January. We had a council member that happened to be on about four flights in January for family business that was affected.”

The city expects Contour Airlines to get back to normal quickly. A recent investment is adding seven more jets to their fleet.