SkyWest Airlines asked DOT for EAS funds to serve Sioux City

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 6:35 PM CST
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Sioux City’s only commercial airline is asking for an almost $3,000 subsidy increase for each flight out of the Sioux Gateway Airport.

SkyWest Airlines, which operates as “United Express,” has been required to remain in Sioux City because it signed a government contract that includes subsidies.

While the airline has told the U.S. Department of Transportation it plans to leave Sioux City, it’s asking for a $3,565 per flight subsidy while it’s forced to stay.

Under the airline’s current contract, they receive a $733 per flight subsidy, according to documents filed with the DOT. But SkyWest wants to increase that subsidy to over $3,500 for each flight through the Essential Air Service program.

“They basically connect those communities with other airports around the country, by a subsidized service that the government provides to being able to provide smaller aircraft to take people to a larger hub, if you will, and then have them go on from there,” said Katy Nastro, a spokesperson for Going, a flight subscription company.

Ultimately Sioux City would like SkyWest to stay here at the airport, though in its official government filings, the airline has given no indication it plans to do so. In fact, they’ve already scaled back some flights from here at the airport and a flight they used to go directly to Denver. Now it makes a stop in North Platte, Nebraska.

“Regional airlines were hit pretty hard with the impacts of COVID-19. And, a lot of the pilots that were operating on regional routes, were actually kind of given the incentive to go and fly on larger commercial airlines,” said Nastro.

Ultimately, it will be up to the DOT to decide SkyWest’s subsidy rate until a replacement airline is found. But either way, SkyWest’s contract will end in the spring of 2024.

Another airline, Boutique Air, has filed a proposal to take over for SkyWest, though the city council and airport commission oppose the move. Boutique Air would fly eight or nine-seat planes to Minneapolis instead of the current 50-seat jet service to Chicago and Denver.