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Airport to create draft of proposal for temporary reduction of flights

Jamestown Regional Airport Director Katie Hemmer said SkyWest has proposed a temporary reduction in the number of flights per week at each airport from 12 roundtrips per week to seven roundtrips per week.

SkyWest Airlines
Jamestown Regional Airport Director Katie Hemmer said SkyWest has proposed a temporary reduction in the number of flights per week at each airport from 12 roundtrips per week to seven roundtrips per week.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun file photo

JAMESTOWN – Jamestown Regional Airport will create a draft of a letter of proposal to SkyWest Airlines that includes reducing the number of round trips per week for July and August only, said Katie Hemmer, airport director.

Hemmer told the Jamestown Regional Airport Authority during a special meeting on Wednesday, May 4, that SkyWest and the U.S. Department of Transportation are working on how to formally rescind the airline’s 90-day termination notice to stop providing essential air service to 29 airports. She said the USDOT and SkyWest have not formally decided what the process will look like.

SkyWest Airlines filed a 90-day termination notice with the U.S. Department of Transportation on March 10 to stop providing essential air service to 29 airports, including Jamestown Regional Airport and Devils Lake Regional Airport. The USDOT issued a holding order on March 13 that required SkyWest to continue serving 29 airports until another air carrier began serving the communities.

SkyWest filed the 90-day termination notice because of a shortage of pilots.

Jamestown Regional Airport has a contract with SkyWest through June 30, 2023, to provide service to the airport as part of the USDOT Essential Air Service Program. SkyWest has provided essential air service to Jamestown Regional Airport since 2014.

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Hemmer said the Jamestown airport wants SkyWest to continue to serve the airport and for the airline to bid for the essential air service contract again.

Jamestown Regional Airport offers direct flights to and from Denver on United Airlines, which is operated by SkyWest Airlines.

Since a 90-day termination notice was filed, SkyWest has continued to serve Jamestown Regional Airport the same way it previously did, Hemmer said.

“We are still the same amount of flights, just at slightly different times,” she said.

Hemmer said SkyWest has proposed a temporary reduction in the number of flights per week for the 29 airports it provides essential air service to from 12 round trips per week to seven round trips per week – one per day – to help the airline continue serving the airports past the 90-day window.

She said Jamestown Regional Airport can create a draft of a letter that includes reducing the number of round trips from 12 to seven per week and increasing jet bridge and landing fees to cover the loss of revenue if the number of flights per week is reduced by 40%. She said the request for reducing the number of flights is to have a departure from Jamestown Regional Airport between 5:30 and 8 a.m. and arrival between 6 and 10 p.m.

Another revenue source that could be lost is the $4.50 for every passenger who boards a plane that is used to pay the debt service in its parking lot improvements.

“When we had reduced boardings during the pandemic, we worked with debt service authority, the North Dakota public financing authority, and they allowed us to make interest-only payments at that time,” she said.

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Keith Veil, vice chairman of the Airport Authority, said a reduction in flights could impact the 10,000 passenger boarding number at the airport.

If the airport gets 10,000 paid passenger boardings, it will qualify for $1 million in entitlement funds from the federal Airport Improvement Program.

If the airport lost entitlement funding, it would not do infrastructure projects, Hemmer said. She said the airport might be able to request waivers for the entitlement funding to the Federal Aviation Administration because reducing the number of flights could impact the passenger boarding numbers.

She said the airport is exceeding its expectations for passenger boardings and had a record number of boardings for one month in March. She said each United Airlines flight is shared with passengers from the Devils Lake and Jamestown airports. She said Jamestown passengers fill about 70% of the seats on a flight and using that percentage would allocate about 1,050 seats for individuals who fly out of Jamestown.

“In order to get the same passenger boarding numbers per month, it means that plane needs to fly full every time,” she said. “Understanding flight connections, schedules and days of the week people want to travel, that is probably unrealistic.”

Hemmer said she talked with SkyWest about the algorithm for the pricing of tickets because the price rises when a flight gets closer to capacity. She said she doesn’t want the price to be a deterrent for people to fly out of Jamestown.

“They did say that they would consider adjusting their price module to make sure the prices don’t escalate when that capacity is being reached,” she said.

She said a draft of a letter of proposal will be created so feedback can be given on the verbiage of it.

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“Additionally, I have a meeting request into the USDOT to make sure I understand and we understand the impacts of our EAS contract by submitting this letter,” she said. “I don’t want to state anything or approve anything until I hear formally from them.”

The Airport Authority will meet Wednesday, May 18, and could address the draft of a letter of proposal at the meeting.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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