SkyWest submits bid to continue providing commercial air service at Aberdeen Regional Airport

ABERDEEN, S.D.(Aberdeen American News)- Sky West had the lower of two bids submitted to provide commercial air service for Aberdeen and Bemidji, Minn.

Local commercial air service is considered Essential Air Service, which means the provider receives a federal subsidy. Air service contracts are generally approved for a two-year period.

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires twice daily flights between Aberdeen and Minneapolis as well between as Bemidji and Minneapolis. The bids were discussed at the Aberdeen Regional Airport Board meeting Thursday.

Sky West has often been the sole bidder for local air service in Aberdeen, but according to the bids posted online by the federal government, Denver Air Service also provided a bid this year.

Earlier this year, Denver Air Connections successfully out-bid Sky West and is now providing commercial service for Watertown and Pierre. While Watertown officials voiced and concerns hoping to keep Sky West, the Department of Transportation upheld its decision, which was made to save money.

Aberdeen Transportation Director Rich Krokel said that now that bids have been received, public comments will be taken until Nov. 30, after which an official determination will be made.

Denver Air Connections proposed a two- or four-year contract, and Sky West is seeking a three-year contract. Proposed annual subsidies for Sky West would be $3.2 million for Aberdeen and $1.6 million for Bemidji. Denver Air Connections proposed annual subsidies of $3.5 million in Aberdeen and $3.2 million in Bemidji.

Sky West has routinely offered extra non-subsidized flights to Aberdeen in the fall to accommodate the increase in travel during pheasant hunting season. Krokel said Sky West plans to have those extra flights built in to the flight schedule, which means a formal request for them would not be needed in the future.