Sioux City Officials Aiming for "Smooth" Transition to New Carrier at Gateway Airport

April 4, 2022

Apr. 2—SIOUX CITY — If SkyWest Airlines, Sioux Gateway Airport's lone carrier, pulls out of the Sioux City market ahead of the busy summer travel season, will passengers be left in the lurch?

Assistant City Manager Mike Collett said the goal is to keep the transition to a new airline "smooth." He said it's possible that a different United Airlines regional carrier could be chosen.

"If you book today, when a new carrier is found, they will either try to rebook you out of another airport or refund your money," he said. "It might be a rebooking here, because we don't even know who the ultimate provider is yet."

Collett said he anticipates that other airlines will be interested in offering service from Sioux Gateway under the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which is currently federally subsidizing SkyWest's flights from Sioux City. SkyWest offers two daily connecting routes to and from Sioux City — one each to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Denver International Airport.

"We would like to see the current destinations in the mix, but, really the carrier can propose any destinations," Collett said. "We would take that into consideration on the community preference."

Earlier this month, SkyWest announced its intent to pull out of Sioux Gateway and 28 other airports as early as this summer due to a shortage of pilots. SkyWest must continue to serve the market until the federal government selects a replacement carrier.

"We will help with that process. We will definitely call upon the airlines and contacts that we have," Collett said. "We have relationships with all the major airlines."

Carriers have until April 11 to submit proposals to the Department of Transportation, according to Collett. He said the DOT will then provide those proposals in summary form to the city, which will give input. However, the DOT ultimately makes the selection.

Collett said he couldn't speculate on how soon a new carrier could begin providing service.

In August 2020, American Airlines announced that it would stop flying to several smaller cities, including Sioux City, due to the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the airline industry. The airline backtracked a few days later, delaying its plan to suspend its unsubsidized flights to Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth.

By the end of August, American filed for subsidies for the Sioux City to Chicago flights, under the EAS program. That triggered a new round of federal bidding for the routes.

Last spring, SkyWest beat out American for the contract under the EAS program, which was created in 1978 to ensure that smaller communities maintained at least a minimal level of air service.

SkyWest began offering direct flights to and from Chicago on April 1, 2021. The carrier's daily service between Sioux City and Denver commenced in October 2020.


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