Two airlines submit FD bids

Two airlines that were previously rejected by local aviation officials are again seeking to serve Fort Dodge Regional Airport with the aid of federal subsidies.

Air Choice One Airlines and Great Lakes Airlines have submitted proposals to the U. S. Department of Transportation outlining how they would provide flights to Fort Dodge if they receive money from the Essential Air Service program. Those proposals were released by the federal agency Thursday.

“We are reviewing them and looking at the options submitted,” said Rhonda Chambers, the airport’s director of aviation.

There have been no commercial flights to and from Fort Dodge since Great Lakes abruptly suspended service on Feb. 1, citing a lack of pilots.

In March, the Airport Commission asked the Department of Transportation to reject Essential Air Service proposals from Great Lakes and Air Choice One.

Chambers said she believes the newest proposals will get serious consideration.

“We just have to think about the proposals and what the potential is in today’s regional airline environment,” she said.

The Essential Air Service program provides money to ensure that airlines continue to serve smaller communities.

Air Choice One, based in St. Louis, Mo., is offering a variety of options that would link Fort Dodge with Lambert St. Louis International Airport or Chicago O’Hare International Airport in Illinois. Some of those options would include a stop in Mason City.

The airline is proposing six to 18 round trips per week initially, with up to 24 such trips after it has been serving Fort Dodge for a couple of years.

Air Choice One would use Cessna Grand Caravan planes that seat 10 to 14 people.

The airline is requesting annual federal subsidies ranging from about $3.6 million to $6.9 million depending upon which package of flights is selected.

Great Lakes Airlines, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., is offering to link Fort Dodge with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in Minnesota, as it did before.

The airline’s proposal includes three round trips a day. Federal subsidies ranging from about $2.3 million to $2.9 million are requested.

That subsidy request exceeds the roughly $1.7 million federal grant the airline previously received for its Fort Dodge service. The airline stopped getting that money when it suspended service and it was not paid for any previous flights it cancelled.

Beech 1900D aircraft that would initially seat nine people would be used. However, in their proposal airline officials wrote that they hope to eventually use those planes in a 19-seat configuration.

Great Lakes Airlines began serving Fort Dodge in April 2012, after replacing Delta Air Lines.

After Great Lakes stopped flying to Fort Dodge, the U.S. Department of Transportation began a search for a replacement airline. That search generated proposals from Great Lakes and Air Choice One.

The airport commission recommended rejecting the earlier proposal from Great Lakes on the grounds that the airline was unreliable and offered uncompetitive fares.

Commissioners recommended rejecting the earlier proposal from Air Choice One because it operates single-engine planes. Using those planes would result in longer flight times, they argued.