Without question, air service is key to local quality of life and economic growth.

To this end, we await with interest a decision by the federal Department of Transportation on which of two airlines will provide service at Sioux Gateway Airport for the next two years.

On the surface, the local air service picture looks much the same today as it did in late 2013 when American Airlines and United Airlines competed to provide air service between Sioux Gateway Airport and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport for two years under the federal Essential Air Service program.

The same two airlines again are in competition to provide service for the next two years to and from O'Hare. In its bid, each airline proposes at least 13 flights per week to Chicago. Their requested subsidies, however, are different. American's proposed subsidy is $1.26 million; United's, $324,159.

The fact two airlines submitted bids for Sioux Gateway Airport service again this year speaks to interest in this market and support for local air service.

Four years ago, the future of air service in Sioux City was uncertain because Delta Air Lines had threatened to pull out of Sioux Gateway Airport unless it began collecting federal subsidies because its local routes lost money and because a House transportation subcommittee had proposed to reduce EAS funding.

Today, uncertainty is diminished and the outlook is brighter.

Among local air service priorities for the future should be more convenient access to western destinations.

The arrival of Frontier Airlines in late 2007 helped generate tremendous improvement in traffic at the local airport, including seven consecutive months in which the airport's passenger numbers were up over the same month the year before. In 2008, when Frontier pulled service after seven months, passenger loads routinely exceeded 75 percent. When Frontier returned to Sioux City for four months last year, support again was strong.

In other words, this market wants and uses air service to the west.

Our hope is the city will work with whoever wins the bid for local air service to add service to the west or will seek to attract a second airline to Sioux Gateway Airport for western service.

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