SkyWest Airlines pilot shortage ends service to 29 small airports

Sky(Billy Huynh)
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 10:41 AM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - When SkyWest Airlines announced last week that it’s ending commercial air service to 29 small American airports, they cited a pilot shortage as the primary reason.

Jon Coleman is the Business Development Director for Key Lime Air, which serves Watertown and Pierre under the Denver Air Connection banner. He says the pilot shortage is impacting all airlines.

“Nobody’s immune from it, we are slightly insulated because of the model of our business, we’re not just a part 1-21 regional airline, we’re part 1-35 cargo, we’re part 1-35 charter, we have a lot of different kinds of flying that we do which means that our pilot group is a little bit insulated,” said Coleman.

Coleman says regional carriers like Denver Air are always going to be a “feeder airline” for pilots who want to move up to a major carrier.

“We have a young pilot, they don’t want to spend their career with a regional, be it sky west or commute air, or go jet, or us, you know. But there’s something that we offer that’s a little bit unique and that’s that a young pilot can come fly with us and spend all of his time with us, learning and growing and getting the kind of quality time and experience that a young pilot needs, and he can go from directly from us to the carrier airline of his or her choice. And we are probably, well, we are the only smaller airline that offers such a thing,” said Coleman.

Coleman says they’re looking at the 29 markets SkyWest is vacating to see if they might move in as a replacement carrier, but there are no guarantees that’ll happen.

“You know we are always looking at markets that would help us to expand and grow in a measured way. The thing that we’re careful about is what I just said, we want to grow in a measured fashion and instead of just you know Willy-Nilly. We don’t want to make promises that we can’t keep,” said Coleman.

Denver Air is expanding. even without filling the SkyWest vacancies. They recently won the contract to provide Essential Air Service to McCook, Nebraska, and are expected to win the contract to serve Cortez, Colorado.

Both of those cities had previously been served by Boutique Air.

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