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(Neb)-Scottsbluff To Lose Air Service On Sunday

By: John Axtell Posted at: 09/04/2017 11:58 PM
SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb (AP) - PenAir, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month says it's ending service to Scottsbluff, Kearney, and North Platte this Sunday and not around the end of next month as first thought. The move means the 3 cities will likely be without air service 6 months.

     Because the Alaska-based airline has federally-subsidized Essential Air Service contracts for those 3 routes, it would normally be forced by the Department of Transportation to keep flying until a new carrier is picked and PenAir says intended to do that until it suffered a mass exodus of pilots.

      Western Nebraska Regional Airport manager Darwin Skelton says the DOT usually still forces an airline to continue service in such circumstances, but that this case is different because the bankruptcy takes precedence.

      The DOT had already called for bids from other airlines when PenAir filed for bankruptcy with next Tuesday the bid deadline, but Skelton says that just starts the process with a public comment period on all the proposals running until Oct 12th.

     He doesn't expect the agency to make its choice until late Oct or early Nov and says that based on past experience, it will likely take the new airline about 90 days to get set up. As a result, Skelton doesn't expect flights to resume until Feb or March.

     Also on the airline scene, Wyoming Dept of Transportation director Bill Panos says state and local officials are studying whether to contract directly with airlines to guarantee a certain level of air service in the state.
 
     Panos says capacity purchase agreements would guarantee airlines a certain payment and set flight frequency, price, and destination. He envisions a public-private partnership that could reduce the amount spent to ensure air service to small cities.
 
     The transportation department is completing a study of the plan and a legislative committee has agreed to form a working group to look at it.

     Commercial air service in most Wyoming airports is now under the EAS system with its subsidies, but Allegiant Air, which doesn't have a subsidy, announced last week that it would stop service from Casper to Las Vegas at the end of the year.


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