Denver Air Connection to retain Essential Air Service in Watertown & Pierre

PIERRE, S.D.(DRGNews)- Denver Air Connection is keeping the Essential Air Service contracts for the airports in Pierre and Watertown through May 2023.

In an order issued Thursday, the US Department of Transportation said it has rejected requests from the cities of Pierre and Watertown, as well as previous EAS provider SkyWest, to rebid the commercial air service to the two communities.

Denver Air Connection Director of Business Development Jon Coleman told DRG Media Group the company will continue to build its relationship with both towns and their flying customers.

After years of unreliable commercial service providers at Pierre and Watertown, Coleman said he understands why people were cautious about flying with a regional company rather than a major airline. But, after flying the routes for the past three months, he says travelers have noticed Denver Air has provided reliable service.

The USDOT order also said SkyWest’s bid was 81% higher than DAC’s and would have cost the Federal government $7.7 million more than DAC’s combined Pierre and Watertown option for the two year contract ($9,554,014 for DAC versus $17,314,398 for SkyWest, over two years).

Currently, SkyWest continues to fly at its own expense, so most days there are four flights to Denver International Airport leaving from Pierre each day. Watertown has daily flights to the Denver International and Chicago O’Hare airports.

SkyWest, flying as United Express, took over the EAS contracts for Pierre and Watertown in April 2019 after California Pacific abruptly ended flights at both airports. In April of this year (2021), the US DOT awarded Denver Air Connection, a subsidiary of Key Lime Air Corp., the federally subsidized contracts.

You can see flight schedules for both Denver Air Connection and SkyWest, flying as United Express by going to either company’s website, to or to the Pierre Regional Airport website.