Bidding process for air service begins

ALPENA -The United States Department of Transportation has sent out a request for proposal for air service at the Alpena County Regional Airport and it appears current provider SkyWest is prepared to bid on the job again.

SkyWest took over all incoming and outgoing flights in Alpena in 2012 and its two-year deal expires in September. From 2011 and 2012 it took the DOT four bid openings before SkyWest was chosen after Delta Airline decided to end its service locally.

SkyWest Spokesperson Marissa Snow said the airline is pleased with the response it has from the airport, travelers from Northeast Michigan and is excited about growing its business in Alpena.

“We appreciate the relationship we have with the community and we are looking forward to working with it in finding ways to grow the demand,” Snow said. “We fully expect to bid on the service again.”

The deadline for bids to be submitted is May 14 SkyWest didn’t specify what its bid package will contain, but community leader in Alpena are hopeful it will be enough to be selected. Mayor Matt Waligora was thrilled with the news.

“That is great news and I’m very happy about it,” Waligora said. “If they bid a successful proposal it would be great for us and hopefully great for them. I think it is important to remind people the importance of flying local. Flying local is the only thing we can do to get self sustaining air service and not have to rely on Essential Air Service funds. We don’t want to have to keep doing this every two years, so we need the community to support SkyWest and the airport.”

Alpena County Commissioner Cam Habermehl said SkyWest’s commitment to Alpena is important because it provides top-notch customer service and is dependable. He said he hopes the relationship can continue to move forward and grow.

“SkyWest is a great and important thing for this community and we all need to continue to support it,” Habermehl said. “I hope they win the bid because you look back to the bids we had before SkyWest and they were for five or six passengers and that would be devastating compared to what we have now. With the future growth we expect in the next few years having SkyWest’s service is very important.”

For 2012 and 2013 SkyWest received $3.1 million from the federal government as a subsidy and the county has done its part to make flying from Alpena more convenient and efficient. SkyWest also has kept air fares low, making them a good choice for most travelers. Airport Manager Billi McRoberts said knowing SkyWest intends to bid is a relief, but the DOT still has the final say on who will operate in Alpena.

“I’m very pleased to learn that SkyWest intends to bid again,” McRoberts said. “It goes a long way toward us being able to retain them. It is imperative that we continue to support them however.”

The DOT is asking for bids that will provide two daily round-trip flights or 12 flights a week. It is requesting a minimum capacity of 30 passengers. Once the deadline passes, the DOT will release the bids and there will be a comment period for people to express their thoughts or concerns. Then it will make its final selection.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at www.thealpenanews.com.