SkyWest Notifies DOT of Service Suspensions Including Houghton County Airport
CALUMET – One of the airlines that serves Houghton County Memorial Airport wants out. SkyWest Airlines says a pilot shortage is the reason for a 90-day notice of service suspension filed with the federal Department of Transportation last week. Houghton is one of 29 cities that would be impacted by SkyWest’s request. Muskegon County Airport is also on the list. SkyWest, and its parent company United Airlines, say since pandemic travel restrictions have loosened, demand for air travel has gone up. The increase has only highlighted the lack of aircraft pilots.
“We’re very disheartened to see they have to leave, but, the reason for that is because of the pilot shortage. So, its hard for them to maintain service in all these airports, until they can get that under control. And that’s probably not gonna happen for a while. So basically right now we’re at 14 [flights]. And I expect to see that go down to 12. So you’re gonna see a little reduction in service. Some days you might only see one flight a day. People shouldn’t be worried about booking out of here still, because there will be somebody to take you out of here.” – Dennis Hext, CMX Airport Manager
Hext said flights will not be interrupted, even if SkyWest discontinues service. The department of transportation will require the airline to continue a 12- flight-per-week minimum, until another airline can agree to service Houghton County Airpot and the other locations on their list. The airport is working with DOT and SkyWest to find an alternate carrier for their runways.
“It depends on who comes in. I mean, sure we’d love to see Delta come in, we’d love to see American come in. Or even United stay here, but Delta would be the one I know a lot of people like. We are working with the DOT and SkyWest, until a replacement airline can be found. And we’ve started talking with other airlines already. in the beginning phases of that. And we hope that we can get some strong airlines to bid on us.” – Dennis Hext, CMX Airport Manager
According to a statement made to business insider by a united spokesman, they hope to combat the pilot shortage by opening their own flight academy. The new facility could train up to 5,000 pilots this decade. All 29 flight locations set to be dropped by United’s SkyWest, are a part of the federal essential air service program, enacted after deregulation in 1978.