SkyWest Airlines to file for termination of contract with Jamestown Regional Airport
The airline is filing a 90-day termination notice with the U.S. Department of Transportation to pull service from 29 airports.
JAMESTOWN – SkyWest Airlines expects to discontinue service in Jamestown beginning this summer due to a shortage of pilots, according to a statement from SkyWest’s corporate communications.
“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.”
SkyWest Airlines was expected to file a 90-day termination notice with the U.S. Department of Transportation by Thursday, March 10, to stop providing essential air service to 29 airports, including Jamestown Regional Airport and Devils Lake Regional Airport, said Katie Hemmer, Jamestown Regional Airport director.
Hemmer said SkyWest is not providing a termination notice because of an issue with the number of boardings at Jamestown Regional Airport. The airport had over 11,300 paid passenger boardings in 2021.
“It is just that there is a nationwide pilot shortage and that struggle is real,” she said. “These 29 airports are in markets where they struggle the most for 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.
Jamestown Regional Airport offers direct flights to and from Denver on United Airlines, which is operated by SkyWest Airlines.
Hemmer said SkyWest providing the termination notice with the USDOT does not mean essential air service will not be provided after 90 days.
“In order for them to officially tell the DOT that they can’t meet their obligations within their contract, they have to file this 90-day notice of termination,” she said. “Once they file that, the DOT will provide a response to it.”
She said a couple of responses from the USDOT could include telling SkyWest to fulfill its obligations to the contract or having SkyWest fulfill its obligations to the contract until another essential air service provider is found.
Hemmer said SkyWest has been a great partner to the Jamestown community and airport.
“We are pleased with the service that we have from them,” she said. “We sincerely hope we can work with them and the USDOT, our congregational representation, our community leadership to find a way for them to viably continue to serve our community.”
She said if SkyWest cannot continue to provide essential air service to the Jamestown Regional Airport, she is hopeful that there will be a smooth transition with a different carrier.
“That is an option that we will explore last,” she said.
If the pilot shortage gets resolved, Hemmer said there would be no reason for SkyWest to terminate any contracts.
She said no changes are expected to the current air service for Jamestown.
“At this point, there is no reason to change any travel behaviors,” she said. “SkyWest in their announcement yesterday to the airports confirmed they want a smooth transition for any new carriers that would take their place, so they would work with anybody who has booked tickets to transition smoothly to whatever they need to meet their travel demands.”
SkyWest’s corporate communications said in a statement that ground staff in Jamestown will be offered various options including transfers within the company.
Hemmer said she is working with all parties involved to resolve any issues.
“We just want the community to know that we appreciate all their support for air service in Jamestown, particularly the jet service that SkyWest provides, and that we will continue to work with our community and SkyWest and all of the federal representation to work through this problem.”
SkyWest corporate communications said it is eager to work with officials toward solutions that would enable the airline to reconnect the Jamestown community to the National Air Transportation System in the future.
“We are committed to remaining flexible and adjusting our plans if the situation improves more quickly than currently expected,” the statement said.