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DOT awards bid: SkyWest Airlines to provide passenger air service to JRA

by DOT awards bid: SkyWest Airlines to provide passenger air service to JRA

Posted on 1/31/2014

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the Essential Air Service bid for passenger air service to Jamestown and Devils Lake Regional airports to SkyWest Airlines Thursday. The airline will offer two flights to Jamestown once it sets up operations, although that may not occur for four months.

Earlier this week Great Lakes Airlines, the carrier that holds the current EAS contract for service to Jamestown and Devils Lake, announced it would suspend service on Saturday to Devils Lake and Jamestown airports and four others in Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan due to difficulties in finding enough qualified first officers, or co-pilots, to provide full flight crews. Changes in Federal Aviation Administration rules on the minimum number of flight hours a co-pilot must have to be part of a flight crew on commercial passenger flights have impacted Great Lakes Airlines' ability to hire enough co-pilots.

The DOT order selecting SkyWest Airlines' bid says the airline will provide EAS to Devils Lake for $3.22 million annually and to Jamestown for $3.12 million annually. SkyWest Airlines will provide 11 nonstop roundtrip flights on a 50-seat jet airplane per week between Devils Lake and Jamestown airports to Denver International Airport. The contract is from April 1 to June 30, 2016.

An announcement Thursday on the awarding of the bid to SkyWest Airlines from North Dakota's congressional delegation, Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer, said Hoeven and Heitkamp met with top DOT officials earlier this week to ask for an expedited transition to a new service. The delegation also met with DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx about the EAS bids for Jamestown Regional Airport and Devils Lake Regional Airport.

Jamestown Regional Airport Authority Jim Boyd and Jamestown Regional Airport Manager Matt Leitner said with SkyWest combining the Devils Lake and Jamestown Regional airports together that means two roundtrip flights daily.

"We are over the moon thrilled with SkyWest being awarded the bid," Leitner said.

Wes Horrocks, manager of corporate communications for SkyWest Airlines, provided the following statement about SkyWest being awarded the contract from the DOT:

"We are pleased that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has selected SkyWest to begin providing air service in the Jamestown community. We know how important reliable air service is to help drive economic development and will be working closely with local officials to launch the first SkyWest flights in early June."

Boyd said based on what he has heard in talking with SkyWest Airlines officials that getting the airline set up at Jamestown and Devils Lake will take at least four months.

"Worst case they (SkyWest Airlines) may not be up and running here until early June," he said.

With Great Lakes Airlines service ending Saturday, Jamestown Regional Airport will not have any commercial passenger service until SkyWest Airlines begins operations here.

Once SkyWest Airlines is operational in Jamestown, Leitner said there will be an early morning and afternoon roundtrip flight between Denver and Jamestown, with the jet airplane spending the night at Devils Lake Regional Airport.

Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen said Thursday she is excited about SkyWest Airlines being awarded the bid.

"We're very happy with the SkyWest selection and hope they can begin service as soon as possible," she said.

Andersen said she wanted to thank Heitkamp, Hoeven and Cramer for their help in getting the DOT to expedite the awarding of the Jamestown and Devils Lake bids.

Boyd said with Jamestown set to experience economic and population growth, having twice daily roundtrip flights to Denver will benefit SkyWest Airlines as well as the Jamestown area.

"This is going to be a big boost for SkyWest and Jamestown," he said.

Boyd and Leitner said having the Jamestown community support the SkyWest Airlines bid it way it did helped in tipping the scales in SkyWest's favor.

"We energized the community to send letters of support, and it responded," Boyd said.

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