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Sioux City airport board recommends staying with SkyWest over new carrier

Sioux Gateway Airport
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
The Sioux Gateway Airport board recommends the city stay with SkyWest at a cost -- they'll have to accept fewer flights.

The Sioux Gateway Airport board of trustees is recommending the city stay with its current flight provider rather than accept a proposal from a new carrier.

In March, the airport’s current provider SkyWest announced it was dropping service to 29 airports, including Sioux City’s, due to an ongoing pilot shortage. That left Sioux City open to proposals from airlines to become their new Essential Air Service provider.

Boutique Air was the only airline that submitted an application before the May 11 deadline. It proposed to service 28 flights to Minneapolis each week on a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft – which could carry up to nine passengers.

In a meeting on Thursday morning, the airport’s board of trustees voted to reject Boutique Air’s proposal. Rather, the trustees voted in favor of recommending the U.S. Department of Transportation to reduce the minimal number of flights required by SkyWest.

Sioux Gateway Airport
Kendall Crawford
/
IPR
If the U.S. Department of Transportation accepts the board's recommendation, the Sioux Gateway Airport will have to temporarily cut one of its destinations.

Airport Board president Joe Kruse said the airport has long had a good relationship with SkyWest. He said he didn’t feel Boutique Air’s proposal would fit Sioux City’s needs.

“For a market the size of Sioux City, I just don't think a plane that holds eight or nine seats is going to work for us,” Kruse said.

The Essential Air Service program typically requires air carriers to provide a minimum of 12 flights each week to receive federal subsidies. If the DOT approves the board’s recommendation, SkyWest would be permitted to reduce the number of flights to just 7 a week.

Currently, Sioux Gateway offers two flights a day. The new agreement would mean cutting one of its destinations – Chicago or Denver – until SkyWest can overcome its hiring obstacles. Assistant City Manager Mike Collett said it's not clear yet which city would get temporarily nixed.

But, he said these destinations are more in demand to Sioux City fliers than Boutique Air’s Minneapolis would have been. He said the city would rather accept fewer flights from SkyWest because they operate larger planes to cities farther away.

“Getting to Chicago or Denver on an aircraft is different from getting to Minneapolis,” Collett said. “People can drive to Minneapolis.”

Collett said the airline has not indicated a timeline for when they expect to be up-to-staff and able to restore the twice-daily flights. The airport’s contract with SkyWest runs through early 2024.

Board member Sarah Murray said although the city will be functioning with fewer flights for a period, she said she believes it’s in the community’s best interest to maintain its relationship with SkyWest.

“We want to make sure that we still have something that's consistent even if we have to deal with the short term inconvenience of rebooking flights,” Murray said.

Now, the trustee’s recommendation will move to the city council for their input and approval. The DOT is expected to make a decision on the plan later this summer.