City of Pierre considers eastbound airline route
Denver Air Connection put in a proposal to the city that includes the possibility of flying to and from either Minneapolis or Chicago every day.
PIERRE, S.D. - Travelers in central South Dakota may soon have another flight option in and out of South Dakota’s capital city.
Earlier this month, Denver Air Connection was the only airline to submit a big for the city’s Essential Air Service (EAS) contract, which Pierre shares with Watertown. In their bid, Denver Air included options to fly to either Minneapolis or Chicago, along with Denver.
Currently, Pierre only has air service to Denver.
“As a good community partner with Pierre, we wanted you all to have the option to examine what the possibilities were,” said Jon Coleman, Business Development Director for Denver Air.
If accepted, it would be the first time since at least 2015 that the city of Pierre had an eastbound airline traveling out of the state.
“All the city of Pierre does is make a recommendation to the Department of Transportation (DOT) about which route, plan, and airline we should pick,” explained Jamie Huizenga, Pierre City Commissioner. “All we do is make that recommendation.”
But to get the extra line, the city would have to cut down the number of times it flies to Denver. Denver Air, also offered the option of keeping the city’s current air service plan, only flying to Denver.
Coleman says that continuity is an important piece of the equation when considering how canceled flights would be handled.
“There is an advantage to the redundancy of having two Denver flights like we do now,” Coleman said. “Although our reliability is very high, cancelations do happen from time to time... Here, with two flights a day to the same city, you have two bites at the apple. Whereas if you have two hub cities, there could be days where things aren’t running as smoothly that you have passengers with more disrupted travel.”
But immediate reaction has shown that many in the area do like the idea of an eastbound line. For Minneapolis, many in central South Dakota have a personal connection. And from Chicago, travelers can effectively go anywhere in the world.
“The EAS program is designed to get people in rural America to a hub city,” Huizenga said. “In the upper Midwest that is Denver, Chicago and Minneapolis, those are the main ones. It allows the people living in rural America to connect to the airline grid and go onto other destinations.”
The next two year EAS contract for both Pierre and Watertown will start on June 1st, 2023.
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