SkyWest has had a rough couple of months, they requested to end 31 EAS contracts in the spring of 2022…
Delta Adjusts Michigan Tag Flights
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has made it through the pandemic without starting a single tag route. Other airlines such as United, American, Alaska, and others combined destinations into a single flight to save costs during the pandemic due to severely light passenger loads. SkyWest under the United Express banner combined many smaller EAS communities into a single flight routing this past spring when the airline began to struggle with the pilot shortage. A tag flight is when an aircraft makes a stop in the first city and continues to the next.
This all changes this coming Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, when SkyWest under the Delta Connection brand will begin its tag routes which will affect eight Essential Air Service communities; Pellston (PLN), Alpena (APN), Sault Ste. Marie (CIU), Iron Mountain (IMT), and Escanaba (ESC) all of which are in Michigan; Brainerd (BRD) and Bemidji (BJI) located in Minnesota, and Rhinelander (RHI) in Wisconsin.
All of the changes talked about in the previous article which can be viewed HERE are still in effect starting Sept. 12, 2022, but with one major change to the schedule, they will now only last for less than a month. Previously, the tag flights were planned to continue until at least January 2023 due to pilot shortages. The reason for this quick and drastic flight change is the communities, more specifically the people living there.
Escanaba, Mich., and Rhinelander, Wis. Airport managers, and town leaders in many of the communities wrote letters to the DOT and others saying how this change would greatly affect their communities and wouldn’t stand for it. The Rhinelander Airport Manager even went as far as saying, if SkyWest didn’t reinstate the original service pattern they would contact their senator and house representative to get the flights back.
The upsetting nature of the flight schedule can be seen from the airport’s point of view. Currently, each community is receiving two flights a day on 50-seat jets, but with the tag flights, they’d have to share the seat with other communities. This would give each community affected half the seats they normally do as they would be stopping en-route to pick up other passengers in other affected EAS communities.
SkyWest hear the complaints and did end up reinstating the original schedule for all of the communities and their not-so-tag flights. However, the communities will have to bite their tongues for roughly a month and learn to deal with the situation. The reinstatement of the original schedule doesn’t restart until Oct. 6, 2022. So, the communities mentioned above will have their very unique tag routing for just shy of a month, making it even rarer for those that do end up flying on any of the routes during this short period of time.
While complaining and threatening to call a senator does work apparently, the schedule doesn’t go back to 100% normality in October. Pellston, Alpena, Sault Ste. Marie and Iron Mountain will go back to their original nonstop flights in October, other than some timing differences. Escanaba will also go back to two nonstops a day, but instead of one flight a day to each Minneapolis and Detroit, they will be losing their Minneapolis flight and instead have twice daily to Detroit on most days. In addition, Escanaba will be losing their early morning departure and late night arrival flights, with the first departure now around 1 p.m. and the last arrival for the day around 6 p.m.
Brainerd and Bemidji in Minnesota will not be reverting to their nonstop flights in October. Bemidji’s early morning departure will still stop in Brainerd on the way to Minneapolis from October until at least December of 2022. Brainerd will still not be affected at all continuing to have two flights a day to Minneapolis.
The flight schedules do change again towards the end of the year, but given the ever-changing nature of the flight schedule, it is not mentioning them this far in advance.
All information in this article was obtained from Delta’s website or documents on Regulations.gov.
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