Denver Air officials visit Pierre Regional Airport | Local news stories
Denver Air Connection officials visited Pierre on Wednesday to meet with the local airport board of directors after the Key Lime Air subsidiary was selected to fulfill the city’s Essential Air Service contract last week.
Denver Air COO Glen Rich and Chief Business Development Officer Jon Coleman flew one of the company’s 50-seat Embraer EMB-145 jets to Pierre for the meeting. The company has big shoes to fill to replace SkyWest, holder of Pierre-Watertown’s current EAS contract, which the two cities favored when the US Department of Transportation requested recommendations for the 2021-2023 EAS contract in October.
Coleman told the Journal of the capital Wednesday that he understands the concerns of residents who may be skeptical about another change at the regional airport in Pierre.
“People aren’t just mad or upset, they’re not just mad because they haven’t been successful,” Coleman said. “There’s a story that got them to have the feelings they have and the worries and fears they have. And I think even though it’s not us, they come from a place that is not unreasonable. I guess what I’m trying to say is we understand why they are worried. And while they don’t apply to us as to how we operate, they had an experience that made them feel what they do.
Pierre Town Commissioner Jamie Huizenga said he felt Wednesday’s meeting had gone “very well”, adding: “Based on the information they delivered, they are probably in a better position than I thought.
“I will say that I feel better about their ability to meet the needs of our flying audience inside and outside Pierre,” said Huizenga. “And I was very direct with some of my questions and comments. We have had a series of challenges as we got to run this airport over the last decade between different airlines … I have personally received several phone calls when things were not going well from the public flying and so I got into this somewhat skeptical because I don’t know anything about Denver Air and (if it does) it’s… another small airline that can’t meet our requirements. “
USDOT selected Denver Air over SkyWest on April 13 in a move that surprised city officials and caught the attention of US Senator John Thune, who called the order a “bomb” for local Pierre businesses. and Watertown.
In its decision to choose Denver Air over SkyWest, the USDOT said it could not “reasonably justify” the cost of choosing the option recommended by Pierre in November, which reportedly saw SkyWest connect Pierre and Watertown to the Denver International Airport and Chicago O’Hare. Rather, the order confirms that Denver Air is the carrier for 12 weekly round trips from Pierre to Denver, six of them shared with Watertown, and six weekly round trips from Watertown to O’Hare.
The cost of the preferred option of the USDOT is approximately $ 9.6 million in grant over two years, which is approximately $ 7.7 million less than the option favored by Peter.
“We were disappointed to learn of the Department of Transportation (DOT) decision regarding our proposal to continue air service to Pierre and Watertown, South Dakota,” SkyWest’s corporate communications office said Monday. “SkyWest appreciates the strong support we have seen from travelers, community leaders and airport officials since we began providing reliable air service to the community in 2019.”
In 2019, the Pierre regional airport welcomed nearly 15,000 passengers despite the lack of service in February or March and only 328 passengers on California Pacific Airlines flights in January. California Pacific abruptly interrupted service to Pierre on January 17 of the same year and had his air operator certificate terminated in 2020.
Passenger numbers for 2019 compare to 11,791 in 2017 and 10,442 in 2018. SkyWest’s pace in 2019 largely continued through the first two months of 2020, but fell rapidly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic .
Watertown Airport Board Chairman Shannon E. Kruse said in a November recommendation letter that passenger traffic at Watertown Regional had increased “significantly” since SkyWest took over the contract. EAS in 2019.
Coleman and Rich met with Watertown officials for a “honesty-filled” meeting, in Coleman’s words, before flying to Pierre on Wednesday afternoon.
“The first thing was to show them that our operation is not even in the same business as the operators they had problems with,” Coleman said of the Watertown meeting. “We’re a smaller airline than SkyWest, sure, but there are also some good things about it. The other goal, which was really the main goal, was to give all of these people the opportunity to speak face to face and allow them to ask us questions and clarify a lot of things that concern me. them.”