County Commission Approves Action Regarding Air Carrier Proposal Comment Letter

County Commission Approves Action Regarding Air Carrier Proposal Comment Letter

At Tuesday's County Commission Meeting, Commissioners heard a request for action regarding an Air Carrier Proposal Comment Letter.

Request for Action

Scheduled air service at the Salina Regional Airport (SLN) is provided under the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, through which the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) provides subsidies to airlines to serve smaller airports that would otherwise be at risk of losing commercial air service.

The EAS contract for SLN has been held in recent years by SkyWest Airlines d/b/a United Express, which has allowed Salina to have direct connections to two major hubs for United Airlines – Denver and Chicago O’Hare. The current contract has lapsed, and USDOT has sought proposals from carriers for a new contract.

The Salina Airport Authority and community economic development partners, including Saline County, have worked hard to maintain, improve, strengthen and solidify the relationships with SkyWest, United and USDOT to maximize air service to SLN. Recently, this has taken the form of support for SkyWest to start new service under a subsidiary, which would have a maintenance base at SLN. However, USDOT has not yet acted upon SkyWest’s application for this new subsidiary to begin flights.

On July 6, USDOT received two proposals for a new EAS contract – one from Denver Air Connection, which proposes to delay the start of service at SLN until July 1, 2024, and one from the new SkyWest subsidiary which proposes to delay the start of service until USDOT authorizes it to begin service.

Budget Impact

This letter has no direct financial impact on the County’s budget. However, the Commission has previously authorized spending American Rescue Plan Act funds to try and drive new or improved air service to the community.

The motion to approve authorizing the Chair to sign the letter, which was substantially the same as requested of the City of Salina and other community partners, was approved 4-0. This allows the community to continue to deliver a consistent message to USDOT and air carriers. Commissioner Vidricksen was not present.

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