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Proposals to serve Jamestown airport don't meet requirements

The U.S. Department of Transportation received two proposals from two airlines to serve the Jamestown Regional Airport, but they do not meet the minimum requirements for the Essential Air Service contract, according to Katie Hemmer, airport director.

airport boardings one file.jpg
Passengers exit an aircraft as seen in this file photo at the Jamestown Regional Airport. The U.S. Department of Transportation received two proposals from the two airlines to serve the Jamestown Regional Airport, but they do not meet the requirements for the Essential Air Service contract, said Katie Hemmer, airport director.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun file photo
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JAMESTOWN – The U.S. Department of Transportation received two proposals from two airlines to serve the Jamestown Regional Airport, but they do not meet the minimum requirements for the Essential Air Service contract, according to Katie Hemmer, airport director.

“Both of them proposed a nine-seat PC 12 aircraft to serve us with 24 round-trip flights per week and Minneapolis as the destination,” she said. “Both of those do not meet the minimum requirements of a two-engine, two-pilot aircraft for the Essential Air Service contract.”

Southern Airways Express and Boutique Air submitted proposals to the USDOT to serve the Jamestown airport.

Hemmer said the federal law that created the Essential Air Service program requires a two-engine aircraft that is operated by two pilots with a minimum of 12 round-trip flights per week.

The Jamestown Regional Airport Authority has not taken any action on the two proposals. Hemmer said the airport has started a conversation with the USDOT in response to the proposals.

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“With the discussion at the meeting and the direction of course that we are leaning is that they don’t meet our requirements, therefore we recommend that the DOT does not accept the proposals,” she said. “It’s a little bit important to remember that even though the contracts serve Jamestown Regional Airport, it is a contract between the airline and the United States Department of Transportation, and so they look to their community and to the airport for input and they really respect that input and put that as a high priority. However, they have autonomy over the contract.”

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.

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

Hemmer said Jamestown Regional Airport has been satisfied with having jet service with a 50-passenger aircraft.

“We have made a good connection into Denver with United,” she said. “We are hoping we just get to retain that same size aircraft and a great connection into a major hub, whether that be Denver or Minneapolis.”

Hemmer said she talked with SkyWest about a proposed letter that includes reducing the number of round trips per week for July, August and September. The Jamestown Regional Airport Authority has not taken any action on sending the letter to SkyWest.

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“We are going to have a couple more conversations with both SkyWest and the USDOT and some legal consultation to make sure that we understand how strong of a position that we are in to retain SkyWest service if we are not able to meet their request for a reduced service,” she said.

The airport authority (NO CAPS>>>>) held a special meeting on May 4 when Hemmer said SkyWest proposed a temporary reduction in the number of flights per week for the 29 airports it provides essential air service 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.

At the special meeting, Hemmer said the 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%. The proposal for reducing the number of flights includes having a departure from Jamestown Regional Airport between 5:30 and 8 a.m. and an arrival between 6 and 10 p.m. She also said the airport wants to see consistency with the ticket pricing algorithm so prices don’t escalate when the plane is getting close to capacity because it will reach capacity more often if the number of flights per week is reduced.

Hemmer said SkyWest requested that the airport remove the contingencies if it decides to send a letter requesting the reduction from 12 round trips per week to seven. She said the airport authority held a discussion at its meeting on Wednesday, May 18, and came to a consensus that it does not want to remove the contingencies from the letter if the airport chooses to submit one to SkyWest.

“So now we kind of have to go back and talk about any consequences of sending the letter with contingencies or not sending a letter at all and utilizing the DOT holding order to maintain the 12 round-trip flights per week as we have right now,” she said.

Hemmer said the Jamestown airport will have discussions with United to get a better understanding of the ticket pricing algorithm.

With the proposals from the two airlines, she said it would be difficult for the Jamestown airport to get 10,000 passenger boardings in a single year. She said the nine-seat aircrafts do not have the capacity to meet the 10,000 passenger boardings.

Currently, flights out of Jamestown have anywhere from 20 to 30 seats occupied.

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In April, the airport had 953 passenger boardings, which was a new record for the month with a previous high of 878. There are already 922 scheduled passenger boardings for May.

Related Topics: JAMESTOWNSTUTSMAN COUNTY
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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