FD Airport leaders call for rejecting bids

Leaders of the Fort Dodge Regional Airport are asking federal officials to reject the bids from two airlines hoping to serve the community and seek new proposals.

Great Lakes Airlines and Air Choice One Airlines submitted proposals to the U.S. Department of Transportation for serving Fort Dodge with the help of a federal subsidy from the Essential Air Service program.

”After careful consideration of both proposals, the commission feels it’s in the community’s best interest to request the DOT to reject both proposals and allow for another solicitation of proposals with a six week submittal time period,” members of the Fort Dodge Regional Airport Commission said in a written statement issued Wednesday evening.

”The reason for this request is to explore all opportunities with air carriers on proposals that meet the needs of our community,” the commissioners wrote.

Fort Dodge has not had commercial flights since Great Lakes abruptly suspended service on Feb. 1, citing a shortage of pilots. That airline was receiving a $1,798,693 Essential Air Service subsidy. However, it stopped getting the money when it suspended service, and it did not receive any federal money for any previous flights that it canceled.

In their statement, airport commission members wrote that they have concerns about Great Lakes being unreliable and offering uncompetitive fares.

Commission members also wrote that they are concerned about Air Choice One proposing to use single engine planes instead of twin engine planes. In the past, Great Lakes, Delta and Northwest all used twin engine planes for their Fort Dodge flights.

Great Lakes Airlines, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., proposed to link Fort Dodge with either Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota or Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois. Two or three daily roundtrips using planes that seat nine people were proposed. The airline asked for a subsidy of $2,577,749 a year.

Air Choice One, of St. Louis, Mo., proposed to connect Fort Dodge with Chicago O’Hare International Airport or Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. It proposed to use planes that seat between six and 10 people. Six to 18 roundtrips per week were proposed. The airline asked for annual subsidies ranging from about $3.6 million to about $7.4 million.