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American files to terminate unsubsidized service in Sioux City

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Sioux Gateway Airport enplanements (copy)

An American Eagle flight bound for Chicago rises off the runway July 21 at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City. 

SIOUX CITY -- American Airlines has filed, under the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, with the U.S. Department of Transportation to terminate unsubsidized service in Sioux City.

In a statement issued Monday, the City of Sioux City and Sioux Gateway Airport said the filing was due to the significant impact of COVID-19 within the aviation industry and widely anticipated by the airport board and the city.

American's filing would request termination of service in the Sioux City and Joplin, Missouri, markets 90 days from the date of filing, subject to DOT EAS rules. If a selection is not made within 90 days, the DOT would require American Airlines to continue to serve the two markets and would begin accruing subsidy, as the DOT solicits bids from all carriers interested in serving both markets.

"We were anticipating this filing after significant dialogue with all involved, as it provides a unique path for Sioux City and Joplin to maintain service and provides American Airlines, and ultimately the successful bidder, a clear path towards profitable service without having to rely on a pending act of Congress," said David Bernstein, president of the Airport Board of Trustees. "We are very lucky that in these very difficult times for the airline industry we have the EAS protection available to our community, as air service is critical for both economic development and quality of life."

American Airlines will continue to provide air service to Sioux Gateway Airport during this process and until the DOT completes the EAS selection, providing for no gaps in service to Sioux Gateway Airport.

The EAS program was created in 1978 to ensure that smaller communities have at least a minimal level of air service. The airport successfully used EAS to preserve Sioux City's air service when Delta Air Lines pulled out of the market years ago.

American submitted the winning proposal for the EAS flights to Chicago but in 2015 withdrew from the program while jockeying with United Airlines for the federal contract.

On Aug. 20, American announced it would drop flights to Sioux City and 14 other small U.S. cities in October. The airline cited the expiration of CARES Act funding for airlines, and low overall demand for flights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Sioux Gateway, American's two daily flights to and from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and one daily flight to and from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport would have been halted from Oct. 7 to at least Nov. 3.


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Sioux City has been without flights to Denver since October 2014, when low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines halted service to the Mile High City after just four months. As recently as the 1990s, United Airlines offered daily flights to Denver.

SkyWest, a branch of United Express, is one of three airlines that submitted proposals for subsidized air service between Sioux City and Chicago. American Airlines currently serves the route but has sought to terminate the service.

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