SkyWest recommended as new airline for Pierre, Watertown

PIERRE, S.D. (DAKOTA RADIO GROUP) - The Pierre City Commission voted unanimously to recommend SkyWest as the town’s next air service provider during Tuesday night’s meeting.

The Watertown City Council also gave its unanimous endorsement to SkyWest Monday night, reports Dakota Radio Group.

After considering proposals from Boutique Air, Key Lime and SkyWest, Pierre Airport Manager Mike Isaacs said SkyWest offered the best overall service package.

"It's a six direct flights to Denver, and six shared flights to Watertown, and then we would also benefit with six flights back to Watertown as well, so that helps the interstate traffic as well," he said. "The morning flight, as I understand it, would start in Watertown, pick up the Pierre travelers, and fly to Denver, and then the afternoon flight would be a direct Pierre to Denver, all 50 seats for the city. The ticket price is interesting to see. Their average fare for this is $90 for one way, so average fare $180 round-trip."

SkyWest will fly as UnitedExpress.

"They are the world's largest regional airline," Isaacs said. "They have over 200 CRJ200 aircraft, over 250-seat jets, so they have a substantial fleet of aircraft. Their proposal offers the most seat and cargo capacity. It was the best possible scenario for peak demand days, such as Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays -- those are our peak days -- and then of course in the hunting season for two months we have a huge demand of passengers where we can easily double our passenger loads and cargo."

He said one of the options SkyWest offered that the other two companies did not was having codeshare relationships.

"And this has kinda been a key point," Isaacs said. "It's a full codeshare
agreement with United. It will have the United Express tail, it will look, it will walk and talk just like a United Express duck. As opposed to an interline agreement, there's some pretty major changes with a codeshare. An interline agreement is something that you build two rates. It costs the first airline 'x' amount of dollars to fly to Denver, and then you add that to your next fare, and so you'd have the sum of those two fares. Whereas in a codeshare, you have the ability to build your route throughout the entire mainline carrier's network, and in this case there's over 2,200 daily flights to nearly all parts of the globe that you can access for that codeshare agreement."

Pierre and Watertown's recommendations will now be forwarded on to the U.S. Department of Transportation, who will make the ultimate decision on which airline will be selected.

Once it receives the recommendation, the USDOT has up to 30 days to complete its review and award a contract.

Pierre and Watertown have been without a carrier since mid-January when California Pacific Airlines stopped service to both communities.