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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The Air Mobility Command isn’t conducting “sound business practice” by hanging on to the Patriot Express mission because too few passengers with permanent-change-of-station or temporary duty orders fly into Japan and Okinawa each month, said Col. Keith Moncrief, the 730th Air Mobility Squadron commander.

Its survival in the Pacific theater beyond October 2006 rests entirely on significantly boosting those figures, he said, which would reduce the number of space-available or priority seats for servicemembers, civilians, families and retirees on leisure travel.

“Starting this October, the Patriot Express is a kind of ‘use-it or lose-it’ proposition,” Moncrief said. “If customers fulfill senior theater command intent and fully utilize this terrific resource, the contract will be renewed in perpetuity, in my view and many others.”

Pacific Command’s utilization rates (Chart), set to be reviewed again in 2006, first must improve dramatically, officials said.

According to Moncrief, only 284 duty passengers arrive at Yokota each month from Los Angeles and Seattle on L1011 aircraft, each of which seats roughly 280 people. During that same time frame, just more than 350 end their flights at either Iwakuni Marine Corps Air Station or Misawa Air Base. The average duty passenger count for those departing from Japan is just 91 each month, he said.

Currently, that mission transits Yokota at least once a week but just 48 percent of seats are used by duty passengers arriving from the United States and just 33 percent when the flights are headed to Iwakuni or Misawa.

On Patriot Express flights from Los Angeles International Airport in MD-11 aircraft, which seats almost 360, the number of duty passengers arriving at Yokota each month has been 274.7 on average, Moncrief said. At Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, that figure is 1,654. An average of only 366 duty passengers leave the country on that mission monthly.

Duty passengers arriving from the States from Los Angeles occupy 60 percent of available seats, he said. They fill 78 percent when traveling to Los Angeles.

Still, officials plan an aggressive campaign to retain the chartered military commercial air service, Moncrief said.

AMC already has invested heavily in terminal upgrades and improved passenger operations worldwide, he said.

Patriot Express, known by different names over the years, has provided regular passenger service from the United States to 27 overseas locations since the 1960s.

Overall, AMC authorities have said, AMC serves more than 340,000 passengers annually but official fliers fill just more than two-thirds of the seats.

The only charge for space-available fliers is a $24.50 transportation fee, or international “head tax,” Moncrief said.

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