The process that will determine what air service provider could take Delta Airlines' place in five northern Michigan cities is about to commence. There is also a chance that once the United States Department of Transportation begins accepting bids, Delta could remain in several, if not all, of the airports where it has expressed its intent on leaving.
Bill Mosley, who handles public affairs for the DOT, said a request for services with information about the cities involved and the airports will be issued soon. He said the proposals will then be reviewed, brought before local government officials, and then a verdict will be decided. If no proposals are submitted, Delta is required to continue service until an adequate replacement is found.
"Delta very well may apply with a new proposal," Mosley said. "They may want to adjust the agreements that are in place now, and they would be looked at along with any others. We will solicit thoughts and concerns about the proposal we are looking at with local government officials and look at comments from the citizens and then make our final determination. This will be some time down the road yet, though, because we aren't even accepting proposals yet."
Several of the airports that would be affected by Delta's departure already have had conversations with the airline, and officials believe this is a negotiating tactic to help secure subsidies to help offset the costs of operations. Kelley Atkins, airport manager in Pellston, said Delta's filing of intent is just part of a process.
"I have talked to Delta, and this is a process by Delta to try to secure subsidies in Pellston," Atkins said. "This is part of a strategy that could include decreased flights and increased capacity. Subsidies for Pellston have never been an issue before, and they don't receive any right now, but now they might be a part of the equation."
Chippewa County Airport Manager Kathy Noel said the airline service provider wants to resubmit a new proposal that would be more economically feasible for the company. She said if it wanted to use a different style of plane, change flight scheduling or alter policy, filing the intent to withdraw service notice took place.
"The filing for our route is for subsidies negotiations," Noel said. "That is why they filed the notice of intent to withdraw here. By doing so, it allows them to move forward with making a new proposal to the USDOT and make any changes it feels needs to be made. We have been through this several times and been down this road before. The uncertainty is what makes the process uneasy, though."
Delta County Airport Manager Connie Ness said the airport is linked to Iron Mountain, and both have been notified of Delta's intent to discontinue service. Ness said she has been in contact with Delta as well and is confident Delta will continue its service moving forward.
"They want to rebid," Ness said. "They want to rebid for the two jets, and this was a necessary step to take. We are also linked and partnered with Iron Mountain, but if they are retained, that will no longer be the case. They have always worked with us a lot and still are."
In Alpena, the chamber of commerce government affairs committee is taking steps to send testimonials to Delta and set up a meeting with Delta and state and federal lawmakers. Alpena County Regional Airport Manager Billi McRoberts was unavailable.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.