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Jet service returns here: First-time users of Jamestown airport happy to be closer to home

by Jet service returns here: First-time users of Jamestown airport happy to be closer to home

Posted on 6/6/2014

Doug and Janice Harildstad of Carrington, N.D., were relaxed waiting for their flight at Jamestown Regional Airport Thursday.

The couple were flying to a business conference in Denver. They were two of about 15 travelers in the first group of commercial air service passengers to board an airplane at Jamestown Regional Airport since Jan. 30.

The first commercial passenger jet airplane from United Express, through a contract with SkyWest Airlines, landed at Jamestown Regional Airport around 12:30 p.m. from Denver International Airport.

Doug Harildstad said he does some flying for business, but had never flown out of Jamestown Regional Airport before.

"We always flew out of Fargo or Bismarck, whichever had the best price," he said.

When the couple saw the price for a flight from Jamestown to Denver International Airport, typically $220 round trip per person, Harildstad said it was an easy choice to pick Jamestown.

"It's nice to be able to fly out of Jamestown, it's closer to home, and the parking is free," he said.

On Jan. 30, 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. SkyWest is a regional airline that contracts with major air carriers like United, Delta and American airlines to provide commercial passenger service to airports that receive EAS.

SkyWest will receive $3.22 million annually for providing EAS to Devils Lake Regional Airport and $3.12 million annually for providing service Jamestown Regional Airport. SkyWest Airlines will provide 11 nonstop roundtrip flights on 50-seat jet airplanes from United Airlines each week between Devils Lake and Jamestown airports to Denver International Airport.

Airport Manager Matt Leitner said United Airlines, the parent company of United Express, officials had asked for a water cannon salute for the jet airplane, a service that was provided by the Jamestown Fire Department.

Jamestown Regional Airport Authority Chairman Jim Boyd and Jeff Wilhelm, vice chairman, watched the jet airplane land and taxi to the terminal. Boyd said watching the plane land was a real high point for him personally and for the Jamestown community.

"This is a real positive day for Jamestown," he said.

The positive, as Boyd said he sees it, is people can come to Jamestown, fly to Denver, and from there connect to anywhere in the world.

"We have been working on getting jet passenger service here ever since I've been on the board (Airport Authority)," Boyd said. "This (jet service) is the beginning to a lot of good things. Our community is growing, and having this service here will be a big help."

The first direct flight from Jamestown to Denver leaves at around 8:10 a.m. today. Leitner said there were about 20 passengers booked for that flight out of Jamestown, not including the passengers arriving from Devils Lake.

He said the difference in how busy the Jamestown Regional Airport building was Thursday as compared to a couple days ago is notable.

"Yesterday, the parking lot, there was like no one here," he said. "Today, it's pretty full. It's good to see passengers here again at the airport."

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