Jun. 18—JAMESTOWN — SkyWest Airlines will provide 14 round-trip flights per week at Jamestown Regional Airport beginning July 12, according to Katie Hemmer, airport director.
Hemmer said there will be an early afternoon arrival into Jamestown that will depart and go back to Denver. Then another afternoon arrival into Jamestown will follow a little later, which will depart for Denver in the afternoon as well. The aircraft will then stay in Denver.
"We are happy that we have reached some kind of a compromise in this situation," Hemmer said. "Not overnighting an aircraft in North Dakota helps with their entire crew scheduling and the pilot shortage that they are experiencing by basing their crew out of Denver and providing just the two afternoon round-trip flights for Jamestown."
She said the schedule change will begin July 12 and could remain through September, but the flight schedules aren't official until about a month out.
"It looks like July, August and September, we are going to be looking at (this) schedule. We will see if it extends through the fall in the year," she said. "We will see if there are any potential changes that need to happen either from SkyWest's staffing perspective or based on some of the feedback we may get based on the bookings if it needs to be adjusted slightly so that we can capture more of the market here."
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 at the same level of service.
SkyWest filed the 90-day termination notice because of a shortage of pilots.
proposed a temporary reduction
in the number of flights per week from 12 round trips per week to seven round trips per week — one per day.
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 the connection schedule for the early afternoon flight into Denver is similar to that of the early morning flight. She said the second afternoon flight into Denver will have less connections going east but still has some good connections going west.
"When we are looking out into the July-August timeframe, we are still seeing that the round-trip flight to Denver is at $226, and that we are seeing the airfare is going to remain competitive," she said. "I just checked a bunch of the connections, you know, checking the east locations like Washington, D.C., and Florida, checking some west locations like Seattle and LA (Los Angeles), checking some international connections like London and all of them appear to have the possibility of an easy connection and are competitive there with surrounding markets."
She said some connections might be different or not possible during the schedule change.
"We understand, it's probably really not our ideal situation, but we are happy that we did not have to reduce any capacity," she said.
Hemmer said Jamestown Regional Airport and SkyWest are working on a long-term solution to the pilot and crew shortage problem.
"We are trying to be as good of partners as we can to SkyWest and being empathetic to their situation without sacrificing their capacity and the schedule for the travelers from Jamestown airport," she said.
Jamestown Regional Airport will provide formal responses before June 30 to the
two proposals from two airlines
to serve the airport. Southern Airways Express and Boutique Air submitted proposals in May to the USDOT to serve the Jamestown airport.
"We are not going to be waiving our right to a two-engine aircraft therefore both of those proposals do not meet the minimum EAS requirements," she said. "Our position hasn't changed, but we haven't formally sent it to the DOT nor has the DOT formally made a decision on it."
Jamestown Regional Airport had 953 total passenger boardings in May, which was a slight increase from the same month in 2019.
"For the month, it's just short of our all-time record," Hemmer said.
She said the schedule in May had a slight change in departure and arrival times due to Devils Lake reducing its number of flights to one per day.
If the airport gets 10,000 paid passenger boardings, it will qualify for $1 million in entitlement funds from the federal Airport Improvement Program.
Jamestown Regional Airport had 4,901 total passenger boardings through May 31.
The only construction-style project the airport will do this year is a crack-seal project, which will have minimal construction impact to the airfield, Hemmer said.
However, the airport is in the planning and design stage for some projects that could happen next year or in 2024. Projects include updating the electrical system, upgrading airfield lighting to LED, a rehabilitation of the main runway and a concrete project for the northern portion of the terminal apron ramp.
"The construction of those projects could happen as early as next year or it depends on when grants are administered," Hemmer said. "Construction, especially for that main runway, may not be in 2023; it may be 2024 by the time construction happens just because the grants, bidding and weather would impact that project."