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Published February 06, 2014, 01:51 PM

Process of converting to SkyWest Airlines has begun

Jamestown, ND - Jamestown Regional Airport will soon be busy as SkyWest Airlines will be bringing in equipment and personnel to make sure the airport is ready when the airline starts passenger service on June 5.

By: Chris Olson, Forum News Service, Jamestown Sun, Forum News Service

Jamestown, ND - Jamestown Regional Airport will soon be busy as SkyWest Airlines will be bringing in equipment and personnel to make sure the airport is ready when the airline starts passenger service on June 5.

SkyWest Airlines is a regional commercial airline that will be providing passenger service between Denver and the Jamestown and Devils Lake Regional airports. SkyWest was awarded a two-year contract by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Jan. 30 to provide passenger air service to Jamestown and Devils Lake under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Essential Air Service program. The contract runs from April 1 to June 30, 2016.

A SkyWest official visited Jamestown Regional Airport Wednesday to find out what equipment the airport already has inside and out, and what changes will need to be made to ensure SkyWest/United Express jet services will run smoothly once passenger service begins in June.

Wes Horrocks, manager of corporate communications for SkyWest Airlines, said generally it takes about four months for SkyWest to get set up in a new airport.

“There will be multiple visits,” he said about the process.

Part of that work will be training employees in customer service and how to use the airline’s computer and reservation systems. Horrocks said he didn’t know how many people will be employed by SkyWest at Jamestown Regional Airport, but there will be some people hired locally.

Jamestown Regional Airport Manager Matt Leitner said the SkyWest official who visited Wednesday reviewed all the different equipment and services offered at the Jamestown Regional Airport.

“It’s very clear they care about doing a good job here (about getting ready for passenger service),” he said.

Where new equipment is needed, SkyWest will bring it with them, according to Leitner. SkyWest will bring a boarding ramp so passengers can walk from the airport boarding area up to the door to the jet. Leitner said there might be a need for different de-icing equipment, but that would be provided by SkyWest.

Under EAS an airline bids to provide passenger service to airports within the EAS system. The FAA pays the airline a subsidy for providing the passenger service. SkyWest will provide two daily roundtrip flights from Denver to Jamestown Regional Airport and Devils Lake Regional Airport and will receive a subsidy of $6.34 million annually.

SkyWest Airlines flies passenger routes for major carriers like United, Delta and American airlines. Horrocks said the passengers at Jamestown and Devils Lake will be flying on United Express jets. A small sign will be placed above the door into the jet that reads “SkyWest Airlines.”

Leitner said having United Express service through SkyWest means people will be able to book flights out of Jamestown Regional Airport on travel websites like Travelocity.com and through the United Airlines website as well. If a flight is cancelled at Jamestown, passengers will be able to book a different flight through United at the airports in Fargo or Bismarck.

“It will be a much improved service over what we had,” Leitner said.

Between today and June 5 there will be no passenger service to Jamestown Regional Airport. Leitner said the airport is an FAA Part 139 commercial service airport, so he and his staff will continue to keep the runways clear and the lights on.

“We get a lot of med (medical) flights and some private flights in and out of here as well,” he said.

Leitner said he too was concerned about not having passenger service for almost five months. But, after seeing what needs to happen to get the airport ready for SkyWest Airlines, he said he thinks that much time will be needed to be ready to go in June.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at colson@jamestownsun.com

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