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No air service: GLA to suspend service to JRA starting Saturday

Chris Olson / The Sun Great Lakes Airlines will suspend service to Jamestown Regional Airport, Devils Lake Regional Airport and four other airports starting Saturday. Great Lakes will continue to offer flights to the affected airports until Saturday.
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No air service: GLA to suspend service to JRA starting Saturday
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Jim and Sue Stiles of Edgeley are enjoying the warmer weather in Myrtle Beach, S.C., but aren’t sure how they will get back to Jamestown next month after learning Great Lakes Airlines is suspending service to Jamestown Regional Airport beginning Saturday.

“Our car is parked at the Jamestown airport,” Jim Stiles said, in an email regarding the Great Lakes Airlines announcement Monday. Stiles said they had a return flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Jamestown Regional Airport booked for Feb. 11.

Stiles said he and Sue are flying into the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Feb. 10.

“Our backup plan is to take the Jefferson bus from MSP to downtown Jamestown, and then get a taxi to the airport to pick up our car,” he said in an email.

Jamestown Regional Airport Manager Matt Leitner said Monday that he received a call from Great Lake Airlines on Friday telling him the airline would end flights to and from Jamestown Regional Airport and Devils Lake Regional Airport starting Feb. 1. The airline officially announced Monday it was suspending service in a news release.

Leitner said he and his staff will help Great Lakes Airlines’ customers as much as they can during this time of transition.

The announcement

In addition to suspending service at Jamestown and Devils Lake airports, Great Lakes Airlines announced Monday that the airline will suspend service to airports in Fort Dodge and Mason, Iowa, Thief River Falls, Minn., and Iron Mountain, Mich.

Great Lakes Airlines will no longer sell tickets to or from these airports, according to the company’s news release. People who have paid for tickets for passenger service after Saturday will be given refunds.

Charles Howell, CEO of Great Lakes Airlines, said in the press release that changes in congressionally-mandated rules on the minimum numbers of flight hours a co-pilot needs to have to be part of a flight crew on passenger airplanes is the main reason for the change in service.

“ … the company feels it is in the best interest of our customers, communities, and employees to suspend service from these stations until we are able to rebuild our staff of pilots in order to provide reliable service. We deeply regret and apologize for this inconvenience,” Howell said.

New contract

Leitner, Jamestown Regional Airport Authority Chairman Jim Boyd and Mayor Katie Andersen were part of a conference call Monday afternoon with senior U.S. Department of Transportation officials to hear the latest about bids to provide passenger air service to Jamestown Regional Airport and Devils Lake Regional Airport under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Essential Air Service program. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D. and John Hoeven, R-N.D., and a representative for Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., met with DOT officials in Washington as part of the conference call. Also participating in the call were Devils Lake Mayor Richard Johnson, representatives from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission and Devils Lake Regional Airport Authority.

Leitner said with the help of the congressional delegation and state and local officials, the DOT has committed to announcing contracts for passenger air service through the EAS program to Jamestown and Devils Lake this week.

Two airlines submitted bids in November for service to Jamestown and Devils Lake for April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2016. Great Lakes Airlines submitted a bid to continue offering three roundtrip flights from Minneapolis to Jamestown and Devils Lake on a 19-passenger turboprop airplane. SkyWest Airlines, a regional air carrier based out of Utah, submitted a bid to provide a once daily roundtrip on a 50-seat jet airplane from Denver to Jamestown. SkyWest submitted a similar bid for service to Devils Lake.

Boyd said Monday the DOT officials were told about the Great Lakes Airlines announcement concerning passenger service to Jamestown and Devils Lake. He said the DOT officials did not indicate which bidder, Great Lakes Airlines or SkyWest Airlines, would be awarded the contract.

Boyd said he is looking forward to the DOT’s announcement.

“We’re (Boyd and Leitner) optimistic a change is coming,” he said.

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

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454
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