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Frank A. Douglass Insurance Agency

SkyWest Airlines trying to pull out of Houghton County

A pilot shortage has SkyWest Airlines reevaluating which airports it serves across the country. The carrier is a regional affiliate of United, bringing planes into and out of Houghton County Memorial Airport from O’Hare in Chicago. It is looking to maximize profit by focusing on more popular routes, and that leaves 29 markets, including the Copper Country, in the lurch.

Airport Manager Dennis Hext says SkyWest can’t leave until there is a replacement carrier contracted to fly from the facility. A 100-day bid process is now open with the United States Department of Transportation. Hext says every option is on the table.

Delta would be the one a lot of people would like. So, we are talking with all of them. Now keep in mind, all of the airlines are experiencing this pilot shortage, so it is gonna be a hard road, but we will work on it and we will get somebody in here.

Even if DOT does not get a bid, it still has the power to compel SkyWest to continue service for the near term, although at slightly reduced frequency to the current arrangement.

By law they have to maintain up to 12 cycles per week. Right now we’re at 14, so you’re going to see a little bit of a reduction in service. Some days you might see only one flight a day. I believe on Tuesdays, and Saturdays are usually our weakest days when it comes to load factors.

Hext says patrons should not worry about booking for future months. If carriers are exchanged, there are procedures in place to make sure customers are refunded in quick order.

Hext says traffic volumes at Houghton County Memorial Airport are above pre-pandemic levels. SkyWest’s decision to leave is not related to an unexpected loss of business, and instead can be solely blamed on a lack of pilots.

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