DOT orders SkyWest to continue air service until new carrier found
SkyWest announced last week that it would discontinue service to Jamestown and Devils Lake.
JAMESTOWN – The U.S. Department of Transportation issued an order requiring SkyWest Airlines to continue serving 29 airports including Jamestown until another air carrier begins serving the communities.
“This is the first step in a process that would hopefully resolve the situation,” said Katie Hemmer, director of Jamestown Regional Airport. “Overall, this is good news for Jamestown and for the other 28 airports that are affected by SkyWest's announcement. And we anticipated that this would happen based on our congressional representation’s influence as well as the support from USDOT.”
SkyWest announced on March 10 that it expected to discontinue service in the summer due to a shortage of pilots, according to a statement issued by SkyWest’s corporate communications. SkyWest filed a 90-day notice of intent to terminate service in the 29 communities located in 15 states that would be effective June 8.
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 also serves Devils Lake through the same program.
Jamestown Regional Airport offers direct flights to and from Denver on United Airlines, which is operated by SkyWest Airlines.
“DOT is supportive of essential air service and they recognized how impactful a notification for 29 airports in the United States can be, and they knew that they needed to take swift action on the legal, kind of contract side of DOT to issue this holding order and try to create as much stability within these markets as they can,” Hemmer said.
The order gives confidence to consumers that they will be able to continue to utilize local air service in their local communities, she said.
The DOT is asking for air carriers interested in providing service to submit proposals no later than April 11.
Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Rep. Kelly Armstrong issued a statement after the DOT issued the order.
“SkyWest has long been a supporter of the Essential Air Service program and the critical need it fills in our national transportation infrastructure,” the statement said. “We appreciate our partnerships and the support of the community, and we are committed to delivering a solid, reliable product through this transition.”
The DOT order aligns with a recent letter sent by the North Dakota delegation to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, urging him to require SkyWest to fulfill its EAS contract and help prevent any disruption in air service.
“Access to continued, reliable commercial air service for Jamestown, Devils Lake and the surrounding communities is necessary to continue economic growth and opportunities in the region and to meet the needs of the traveling public,” the delegation said. “Air service demand in North Dakota has significantly increased from previous years. Notably, of the eight commercial service airports in North Dakota, Jamestown and Devils Lake airports are the only that have seen an increase in boardings year-over-year from January 2019. Clearly, now is not the time to cease commercial air service to these communities.”
SkyWest has provided air service through the EAS program to Jamestown Regional Airport since 2014.
“At this time we’re just really pleased that our congressional representation has been so supportive,” Hemmer said. “We’re going to continue to work with them as well as the governor’s office, North Dakota Aeronautics, our local advocacy to create a real long-term solution to this but we’re pleased that we at least have the holding order in place.”