City extends pact with SkyWest after carrier suspended 1 of its 3 flights at Sioux Gateway | Government and Politics

SIOUX CITY — Four months after SkyWest indefinitely suspended one of its three daily flights at Sioux Gateway Airport, the city is extending an agreement with the regional carrier that contains no guarantee the route will be restored before the new deal ends on Dec. 31.

“We’re hoping, based on demand and flexibility in the market, that they will be bring that flight back this summer,” said Mike Collett, assistant city manager and director of the city-owned airport.






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SkyWest, a regional carrier for United Airlines, currently offers two daily connecting routes to and from Sioux City — one each to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Denver International Airport.

The carrier, flying as United Express, started its Denver service in October 2020 after signing an agreement with the city that provided minimum revenue guarantees for at least one daily flight to the Mile High City. As part of the deal, which is set to expire at the end of this month, the airline was eligible for up to $1.2 million, which included $360,000 from the city, $600,000 from a US Department of Transportation grant and $240,000 from surrounding communities.

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Of the $1.2 million, about $129,000 remains in the fund, according to city documents. The remaining dollars could be applied to a third flight if the airline restarts it, under an amended extension the City Council approved Monday night. There was no public discussion of the agenda item during the meeting.

SkyWest’s new agreement with the city, which runs through Dec. 31, is separate but related to a three-year contract the US DOT awarded the carrier in April 2021 for two daily flights at Sioux Gateway.

Under terms of the Essential Air Service contact, SkyWest has the option to provide both flights to and from Chicago or one each from Chicago and Denver. Last Nov. 1, SkyWest suspended the Denver route under its agreement with the city, citing a systemwide shortage of aircraft and pilots, as well as lingering impacts from the pandemic. Collett said the airline then switched one of its Chicago flights to Denver, preventing an interruption in service to the latter city.

SkyWest now offers daily departures from Sioux City to Chicago at 8 am and from Sioux City to Denver at 11:45 am Arrivals from Chicago are now 11:15 am and from Denver at 11:30 pm, Collett said.

The reshuffled schedule allows SkyWest to send the regional jet arriving from Chicago in the late morning to Denver afterwards. The aircraft arriving late in the evening from Denver stays overnight in Sioux City so it can be dispatched to Chicago in the early morning.

Collett acknowledged the reshuffled schedule is not as convenient for business travelers as the previous three-flight schedule, leading some to fly out instead from nearby airports in Omaha or Sioux Falls.

Ticket sales were strong prior to SkyWest reducing its number of daily flights at Sioux Gateway from three to two, Collett said.

“We definitely think there is demand for three flights,” he said.

SkyWest’s three year EAS contract, which began April 1, 2021, requires the airline to offer at least 12 flights per week at Sioux Gateway for a subsidy of $2,045 per flight, or nearly $1.47 million, in the first year. In the second year, the subsidy drops to $880,418, and in the third and final year, it’s reduced to $533,437, according to federal documents.

With backing from the Sioux Gateway Board of Trustees and the City Council, SkyWest, the DOT selected United’s proposal over a competing bid from Sioux Gateway’s then-incumbent carrier, American Airlines.

American discontinued service at Sioux Gateway after United’s EAS contract started last April.

The arrival of United at Sioux Gateway in October 2020 marked the airport’s first direct flights to Denver in six years.

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