Air service issues: Drop in Jamestown boardings prompts meeting in WashingtonRepresentatives of the Jamestown Regional Airport met with officials from Delta Air Lines, Great Lakes Aviation and others in Washington, D.C., Wednesday in an attempt to reverse plummeting passenger numbers.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Representatives of the Jamestown Regional Airport met with officials from Delta Air Lines, Great Lakes Aviation and others in Washington, D.C., Wednesday in an attempt to reverse plummeting passenger numbers.
“They didn’t have any silver bullets that said ‘OK, this is a solution,’” said Jim Boyd, chairman of the JRA Authority. “… I think we got their attention yesterday, and it’s not just an event, it’s a process here.”
The number of passengers per month getting on planes in Jamestown dropped drastically after the March 19 changeover in airlines from Delta to Great Lakes — from 797 people in February to 448 in March and only 185 in April.
Delta had declined to bid on Jamestown’s Essential Air Service contract, which provides federal subsidies for airline service. Great Lakes was considered the only viable option when the U.S. Department of Transportation released its bid request.
JRA officials attributed the decreased boardings to two factors — first, high prices for flights on Delta.com, which are not considered competitive with prices via other airports, and second, reliability issues with Great Lakes flights.
In Washington on Wednesday, Boyd, JRA Vice Chair Jeff Wilhelm, JRA Manager Matthew Leitner and Jackie Tarpinian, owner of Globe Travel, presented a list of problems and possible solutions to both Delta and Great Lakes.
Both airlines were requested to respond by June 15, Boyd said.
Officials from Devils Lake Airport also attended the meeting in order to address similar concerns about Devils Lake air service.
“These are two communities that are suffering because of the transition (between Delta and Great Lakes) is poorly managed,” Boyd said. “I kind of think that I have confidence we’re going to get somewhere.
“I just don’t know how fast it’s going to go, and we’re going to keep the pressure on to make sure that it goes as fast as possible, to minimize the impact to our airport and our citizens here, our travelers.”
Between March 19, when Great Lakes took over from Delta, and the end of May, 218 flights were scheduled to depart from Jamestown. Sixteen of those flights were cancelled, not including two cancelled due to weather.
In that same period of time, 228 arrivals were scheduled. Two of those, too, were cancelled due to weather, and 15 were cancelled for other reasons.
That leaves Great Lakes with a completion rate of 91.7 percent on departures and 92.5 percent on arrivals.
From Jan. 1, 2011, until March 19, 2012, Delta carriers scheduled 1,257 flights to Jamestown, 1,201 of which were completed —about 95.5 percent.
During that same time, Delta carriers scheduled 1,253 departures from Jamestown, 1,194 of which were completed — about 95.3 percent.
Timeliness of flights has also been an issue, Boyd said.
“A lot of it’s learning curve. (Great Lakes) is adding a lot of airplanes to their fleet, and they’ve got support structure that they are trying to bring on at the same time, and it’s just not going off like clockwork,” Boyd said. “And it has to. It has to. People … depend on the promptness of departures and arrivals, otherwise they will go to another airport.”
According to Bill Mosley, a public affairs specialist at the U.S. Department of Transportation, there is no specific standard under EAS for when flight delays or cancellations are too excessive.
“We would look at this on an individual basis,” Mosley wrote.
The Washington meeting included representatives of Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Rep. Rick Berg R-N.D., and Gov. Jack Dalrymple.
“The unreliable service we’ve seen in Devils Lake and Jamestown is simply unacceptable,” the lawmakers said in a joint press release, adding that they were sympathetic to concerns raised by the airlines but hoped for the development of “mutually beneficial solutions.”
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org