Officials discuss EAS proposals for Jamestown airport
The two proposals are from SkyWest Charter and Northern Pacific Airways.
JAMESTOWN – The U.S. Department of Transportation has received two proposals to provide Essential Air Service to the Jamestown Regional Airport.
The two proposals are from SkyWest Charter, a subsidiary of SkyWest Airlines but a separate entity, and Northern Pacific Airways, which is the parent company of Ravn Alaska, said Katie Hemmer, airport director.
A new Essential Air Service contract will be awarded later this year. Jamestown Regional Airport has a contract with SkyWest Airlines 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.
City officials, travel agents and individuals representing Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Kelly Armstrong, R-N.D., discussed the proposals Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the Jamestown airport. Comments from the public on the proposals are due by Feb. 21.
“Whatever we submit as feedback would get loaded into the federal registry by that deadline for public review,” Hemmer said. “The DOT can begin their negotiations with whoever they are selecting at that time.”
Northern Pacific Airways is proposing 14 round trip flights per week to Minneapolis using a 37-seat turbo-prop aircraft. Hemmer said the flight time makes Minneapolis the only hub that’s a viable option for Northern Pacific Airways’ aircraft.
The Essential Air Service Program requires airlines to provide 12 round trips per week.
SkyWest Charter is proposing 12 round-trip flights per week to Denver and Minneapolis or Chicago. The round-trip flights to Denver would be through United Airlines and the round trips to Minneapolis would be through Delta Airlines. Hemmer said Chicago was included as an option because it is also a United Airlines connection.
Hemmer said SkyWest Charter included six round trips to Denver and six round trips to Chicago because that’s how the numbers work out for its subsidy request.
“However, they have put in their letter that it’s the community and SkyWest will make the decision about the hub cities and the frequency of use,” she said. “ … It doesn’t have to be six flights to Denver, six flights to Minneapolis. It could be eight flights to Denver and four flights to Minneapolis or any combination that would be market driven.”
SkyWest Charter is proposing to serve Jamestown Regional Airport with a 30-seat jet aircraft.
“That is the exact same aircraft that comes in here now,” Hemmer said. “They are removing 20 seats from that aircraft.”
The SkyWest Charter proposal does not include Devils Lake so all 30 seats will be for just passengers from the Jamestown airport. Hemmer said SkyWest Charter anticipates more than 14,000 paid passenger boardings per year with its proposal.
“They anticipate because we are reducing the combination of sharing seats with another city and the opportunity to expand to a second hub that will see significant growth in our market,” she said. “They want to continue service to Denver with United. They believe that connection has worked really well for us.”
Hemmer said SkyWest applied for a public charter certificate under part 135 of the federal code in June 2022. She said the public charter certificate allows SkyWest to expand its pilot pool market since there is a less restrictive hour requirement for the pilot.
“So for regional airlines who are looking to offer the two-pilot service to be able to reduce the number of required hours expands the pool of pilots that they can have for commercial service,” she said.
Because the public charter certificate might not be approved until after June 2023, SkyWest Charter proposed operating under an air taxi certificate that is much more restrictive, she said.
“They would still use the 30-seat aircraft,” she said. “But, they would be limited to less than five round trips per week per hub.”
There are other airports that get essential air service that are served under the public charter certificate, she said.
“This would be the first one that has done a weird combination of air taxi certificate for a period of time, then public charter coming off of a full commercial (flight),” she said, referring to SkyWest Charter's proposal. “DOT definitely has some logistics concerns which they are working through with just how to calculate the subsidy properly.”
Hemmer said improved connections is one potential reason to implement the new schedule as soon as possible. She said it may be worth it to take a reduction down to nine round trips per week just for the connections.
Currently without an early-morning departure to Denver, Jamestown Regional Airport is missing out on lots of flights, said Brandi Van Gilder, a travel agent at Jamestown Travel. She said people don’t want to stay overnight in Denver and the Jamestown airport is losing out on passengers traveling to Mexico, Florida or Hawaii. She said travelers would like an option to Minneapolis.
Van Gilder said if the number of round trips per week was reduced to expand the Jamestown airport’s service, it is worth trying.
It would be advantageous for the community to have two hubs, said Corry Shevlin, vice president of business development for the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp.
Mayor Dwaine Heinrich said he doesn’t care for the idea of having round trips to Chicago. He said SkyWest is one of the better regional airlines and the Jamestown airport has been successful with providing round trip flights to Denver.
Stutsman County Commissioner Jerry Bergquist said once passengers have had jet service from Jamestown, they won’t want to get on a turboprob aircraft.