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Two airlines bid for passenger service here

by Two airlines bid for passenger service here

Posted on 12/6/2013

Jamestown Regional Airport could have a jet airline passenger service on a regular basis for the first time in 35 years starting in April, depending on which bid for service the U.S. Department of Transportation accepts in January.

Two airlines, Great Lakes Airlines and SkyWest Airlines, submitted bids this week to the DOT to provide passenger air service to Jamestown Regional Airport.

Currently Great Lakes Airlines has the contract through the Federal Aviation Administration's Essential Air Service program to provide two flights a day to Jamestown Regional Airport. The airline receives a subsidy through the FAA to provide the service. The current contract expires March 31.

The Essential Air Service program is a subsidy program administered by the FAA to ensure airlines provide passenger service to airports that otherwise would not receive any passenger air service.

Jamestown Regional Airport Authority Chairman Jim Boyd said he is excited that two carriers have submitted bids. Boyd said Great Lakes Airlines ties Jamestown and the Devils Lake airport together and would offer three flights daily to Minneapolis, Minn., on a 19-seat turbo-prop airplane. The SkyWest bid would offer one flight daily between Jamestown and Denver on a 50-seat jet airplane. The SkyWest bid doesn't offer direct service to Minneapolis.

Boyd said it is exciting that the airport has two bidders this time around. The contracts for service run for two years. Boyd said when the airport went through the bidding process in 2011, Delta Air Lines was the service provider and decided to not submit a bid at the last minute, which prompted the Airport Authority to search high and low for a replacement passenger air service provider.

"We're very pleased to have two viable bidders this time," he said.

The last time Jamestown Regional Airport had regular jet airplane passenger service was in 1978, before the federal government deregulated the airline industry, according to Boyd.

Boyd said getting SkyWest to submit a bid for Jamestown was something he and the Airport Authority have worked on since 2012. He contacted community members who fly in and out of Jamestown to write letters to SkyWest officials to encourage the airline to submit a bid.

"I got copied on 22 or 23 messages sent from (Jamestown) community members to SkyWest's vice president of market development. I think that really helped," Boyd said

Airport Manager Matt Leitner said he thinks SkyWest realized there is a growing market for passengers in Jamestown and the surrounding area.

"It's a good opportunity because of our burgeoning market and local economic growth," he said.

Boyd said one possible problem with the SkyWest bid is that the DOT was looking for two flights a day for a carrier offering jet service. However, he said the DOT does take what the community wants into account in awarding bids.

"The DOT always asks for community feedback," he said.

Boyd said anyone who wants to submit a comment about the bids, whether it is a letter for or against either of the bidders, to send those comments to Jamestown Regional Airport. He said the comments will be sent in package to the DOT by Jan. 6, the deadline for submitting comments on the bids.

Leitner said when the airport lost service from Delta, Jamestown did lose some passengers to airports in Fargo and Bismarck. He said if Jamestown gets jet service, like it had for about three months toward the end of the Delta contract, he believes the airport will see an increase in passengers.

Anyone wanting to submit a comment by email, with attention to Matthew Leitner, on the bids from Great Lakes Airlines or SkyWest may send it to jmsairport@daktel.com. To send a letter, mail it to Jamestown Regional Airport, P.O. Box 1560, Jamestown, ND 58402.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at colson@jamestownsun.com