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KEEPING SKYWEST: County Commission approves support for airline's EAS bid

The Jamestown Regional Airport Authority is asking local government and business leaders to support the bid of SkyWest Airlines to continue providing jet airplane commercial passenger service between Denver International Airport to Jamestown. John M. Steiner / Sun file photo

There wasn’t much debate Tuesday when the Stutsman County Commission considered a request for a letter of support for SkyWest Airlines’ bid to be awarded a two-year contract from the federal government to continue offering jet airplane service between Denver and Jamestown Regional Airport.

On a 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Denny Ova absent, the commission approved the request with few comments.

“The numbers look good,” said Mark Klose, County Commission chairman.

Klose was referring to the paid passenger boarding figures that Sam Seafeldt, Jamestown Regional Airport director, included in his letter to the commission seeking its support.

Commercial passenger airplane service to Jamestown Regional Airport is made possible through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Essential Air Service program. Under the program, airlines bid contracts which are approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide passenger service to regional and smaller airports, usually outside of major metropolitan areas, that otherwise would not receive any commercial passenger service.

SkyWest Airlines, using United Express 50-seat jet aircraft and flight crews, provides 12 flights a week between Denver International Airport and Jamestown and Devils Lake airports.

Seafeldt said SkyWest Airlines was the only airline to bid for the 2018-20 EAS contract for Jamestown. The airline bid it receive a subsidy of $2.68 million a year to provide jet airplane commercial passenger service to Jamestown, which is down from the $2.79 million a year subsidy it received for the 2016-18 contract.

The proposed contract has SkyWest providing $20,000 a year to have Jamestown Regional Airport market the flights.

Mayor Katie Andersen, Jamestown Regional Airport Authority chairman, said the marketing funds from SkyWest are new, but makes sense for the airline and the Jamestown community.

“One of the things we see building in the service in Jamestown is making sure the service is being utilized by not just Jamestown residents, but by the entire region we serve,” she said.

Under the proposed contract, SkyWest would continue offering service to Devils Lake Regional Airport, with the airline receiving an annual subsidy of $3.93 million a year, down from $3.97 a year in the 2016-18 contract. Devils Lake would also receive $20,000 from SkyWest for marketing.

Boutique Air, a regional airline, also submitted an EAS bid to provide daily commercial passenger service between Devils Lake and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The airline proposes offering three round-trip flights daily using eight- or nine-seat twin turboprop airplanes. Boutique Air is asking for a $3.97 million annual subsidy to provide the service.

Seafeldt said Boutique Air considered Jamestown, but did not submit a bid.

According to information provided by Seafeldt, SkyWest was awarded the two-year EAS contract to Jamestown and Devils Lake first in 2014.

The first jet airplane commercial passenger flight to take off from Jamestown Regional Airport since 1978 happened in June 2014. Paid passenger boardings from June to Dec. 31, 2014, were 3,207. In 2015 that number jumped to 7,966, then to 11,123 in 2016 and to 12,865 in 2017.

By exceeding the 10,000 paid passenger boardings a year the Jamestown airport’s entitlement funding increased from $150,000 a year to $1 million. 2018 will be the first year the airport will receive the $1 million in entitlement funding and will go to the FAA-approved highest priority capital project. For 2018 the highest priority project is a $2.52 million improvement to the airport’s main runway. | (701) 952-8454

Chris Olson

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

(701) 952-8454