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SkyWest recommended as new airline carrier PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 September 2017 11:45

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ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



Following the abrupt departure of PenAir as Liberal’s air service provider, the City of Liberal has been working hard to find another essential air service provider for the area. 

Tuesday evening, the Liberal City Commission took a step closer to choosing a new airline during a special meeting. 

“Right after PenAir announced they were filing for bankruptcy, the City and especially our airport manager Debbie Giskie opened up the search with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to find a new air service carrier who would work and fit the guidelines for essential air service,” Liberal Mayor Joe Denoyer said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “We had six bidders who all submitted their bids, and those were SkyWest, Boutique Air, Great Lakes, Key Lime Air, Silver Airways and SkyValue Airways.” 

During Tuesday night’s meeting, the commission unanimously voted to recommend SkyWest to the DOT to be Liberal’s new air service provider. 

“It’ll be a 50-seat airplane, Liberal’s runway is long enough to accommodate that,” Denoyer continued. “We’ll probably have to do an environmental impact study since it’s a larger plane, and it will be two round-trip flights per day coming in and out.” 

After Tuesday night’s decision, everything will be forwarded to the DOT with the recommendation to use SkyWest, and the DOT will ultimately be the one who awards the bid, Denoyer said. Looking ahead, even with the impact study, it will probably still be either January or February before service will come back to Liberal, Denoyer added. 

“With SkyWest, one of the major factors was it’s a solid company and they’re affiliated with United Airlines,” Denoyer said. “SkyWest has been in business a long time and they have a proven record. The larger aircraft is a plus, and we felt it was time we had an air carrier we knew we could trust.”

Denoyer also briefly talked about how the overall process works. 

“How everything works is we get the proposals, which I believe first go to the DOT,” Denoyer said. “The DOT then forwards them on to the City, the City looks them over and then we make our recommendation back to the Department of Transportation. Then since there’s essential air service money involved, they do have the final say and all the companies fit in the guidelines. And even though it’s not 100 percent guaranteed, it’s highly likely SkyWest will be the company the DOT chooses.”

However, Denoyer emphasized, this is not the final decision, and Tuesday evening’s meeting was only to make a recommendation. There is still some work to be done before everything gets finalized, Denoyer said. 

“Once the DOT receives our recommendation, they will order the environmental impact study and that will cost about $40,000 to do that study,” Denoyer said. “That should be taking place in the very near future. Then from there, the results will be forwarded not only to the City of Liberal but also the airport manager, the city commission, SkyWest and the DOT. That does take some time and that’s why the decision to recommend SkyWest is starting, because that study has to be done and then SkyWest has to coordinate everything with Denver and everywhere else.”

After everything gets worked out, Denoyer added, air service should return to Liberal shortly after the beginning of 2018. 

“It’s exciting to have a 50-passenger air carrier, it’s exciting to have a reputable and proven company with SkyWest and its affiliation with United Airlines,” Denoyer said. “You should be able to book a flight here in Liberal to get you to your final destination without any major hiccups. I would like to also put out there the City is working to get a consistent air carrier to Liberal and even though there are folks who may have been burned in the past, the past is in the past and we’re moving forward. We have a great company who we’re looking forward to potentially partnering with here in Liberal.”

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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