SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Council will be asked Monday to approve a resolution to recommend that the U.S. Department of Transportation award a three-year contract to SkyWest Airlines for service between Sioux City and Chicago under the Essential Air Service program.
Sioux Gateway Airport is covered by the federal program, which was created in 1978 to ensure that smaller communities maintained at least a minimal level of air service. The airport successfully used EAS protections to preserve Sioux City's air service when Delta Air Lines pulled out of the market years ago.
According to documents filed with the city, the Sioux Gateway Airport Board of Trustees reviewed three proposals for EAS submitted to the USDOT by American Airlines, Boutique Air and SkyWest, which is doing business as United Express.
David Bernstein, president of the Sioux Gateway Airport Board of Trustees, wrote in a letter to the USDOT, which was dated Nov. 4, that SkyWest meets all EAS criteria. He also said that United Express service to Chicago will be "critical" as the community recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, Denver air service returned to Sioux Gateway, after a six-year absence, with once-daily United Express-branded flights operated by SkyWest.
The details of SkyWest's EAS proposal for Sioux City to Chicago service were not referenced in Bernstein's letter or the city documents.
While Boutique Air presented a bid for zero subsidy, Bernstein wrote that the board found "significant issues" with its bid.
"Boutique Air cannot operate its proposal as submitted to the USDOT without incurring millions of dollars in losses, which would not only jeopardize service at Sioux City, but all EAS markets that have service by Boutique Air," he wrote.
American Airlines announced in August its intention to stop flying to Sioux Gateway in October, due to the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on the airline industry. The airline backtracked a few days later, delaying its plan to suspend its flights to Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth.
Then, at the end of August, American filed to terminate unsubsidized service to Sioux City, under the EAS program.
"We have valued our relationship with American Airlines over the past eight years, and ultimately, we hope that American is able to return to Sioux City in the future once the airline industry in on the road to recovery," Bernstein wrote.
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