City officials urge change at Sioux Gateway to maintain jet service

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 4:55 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Change could be coming to commercial air service at Sioux Gateway Airport. That, as city officials urge the federal government to approve a plan that would allow charter flights to serve Sioux Gateway.

City officials say the change would give Sioux City’s only airline, Skywest, more flexibility to keep flights going. The change would also include a 20-seat reduction on each flight.

As of right now, flights continue like normal at Sioux Gateway Airport with SkyWest Airlines planes flying under the United Express banner.

But Skywest has filed a request with the U.S. Department of Transportation that, if granted, would allow the airline to conduct charter flights at the airport. Those charter flights would replace current service, a move city officials support.

“Hopefully the traveling public really doesn’t see a difference, the difference they will see is the number of seats in the aircraft. But beyond that, hopefully, their experience isn’t any different than it is today,” said Mike Collett, the assistant city manager.

If approved, the number of passengers on each flight would drop from 50 to 30. The Airline Pilots Association opposes the move, citing safety concerns. The Association says charter plane rules require fewer flight hours for first officers.

“It must be stopped because it would open the floodgates to others who would put profit ahead of safety and will have a race to the bottom and go right back to where we were before the law was changed in 2010,” said Jason Ambrosi, the ALPA president.

Collett said SkyWest has committed to using “the same safety standards” as they do today.

There is a bit of a time crunch airport officials say, because SkyWest’s contract at the airport ends in March of 2024 either way. So whether or not that charter service gets approved could be a determining factor in what air service looks like moving forward.

“And basically, they’re still waiting for DOT’s response on that. So, as it drags out longer, communities are becoming less patient. And, they’re wanting legislators to get involved and see where it’s at,” said Collett.

Both the ALPA and the city say there’s no timetable for when the DOT may rule on the charter flight application. Collett said Sioux City would still have 12 flights per week, headed to Denver and Chicago.

The Sioux City City Council also recently approved funds for apron improvements at the airport. Collett said the project cost about $650,000, and 95 percent of the funds were provided by the FAA. He said the airport will remain open throughout the project as it is phased in.