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Speer: Sky West makes most sense for Alpena

May 18, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

Congratulations to everyone involved in the airline service proposals for Alpena.

Thanks to your efforts, four solid bids were submitted this week for the Alpena County Regional Airport. I truly believe had we not fought, lobbied and pleaded our case from one end of the country to another, these never would have occurred. Indeed, it was a job well done. Hats off to each of you for your efforts and perseverance.

And, while all four are respectable bids, one stands out in my mind as being the best - that of SkyWest. Their proposal would supply Alpena with 12 round trip flights to Minneapolis-St. Paul and Detroit Metro airports on a plane that seats 50.

"One of the most beneficial aspects of SkyWest's proposal is that it provides Alpena passengers with continued access to Delta Air Lines' global network," the SkyWest proposal states. "Delta is a founding member of the SkyTeam alliance, providing seamless connections aboard 5,400 daily flights and unparalleled access to nearly all parts of the globe."

That, in a nutshell, makes all the difference in the world for travelers and is the item the really separates the bidders in this process. While the other bidders are working to secure ticketing and baggage handling agreements with the major airlines, none as yet have them ironed out.

Think about it for a minute. The main reason anyone will fly from Alpena is for convenience. And, while everyone will agree the security measures in place at airports today are needed and necessary, no one wants to go through that process twice.

With SkyWest's ticketing and baggage agreements, travelers will land in either Detroit or Minneapolis, get off their plane and make their next connection. They won't have to rebook, recheck their luggage or head through security checkpoints yet again.

Unfortunately, while the other proposals have positive merits of their own, for me what places them behind the SkyWest proposal is the convenience of ticketing and baggage arrangements at the landing destination.

With their bid to Alpena, SkyWest would start a 50-seat turbojet from Minneapolis to Alpena, then continue it from Alpena to Detroit. The process would be reversed later in the day, with the jet beginning in Detroit, landing in Alpena, then taking off and continuing to Minneapolis.

On weekends the only service in and out of Alpena would be from Minneapolis, where SkyWest has one of its own hubs. Celebrating its 40 anniversary this year, SkyWest employs 11,232, has 316 aircraft and partners with Delta, United, U.S. Airways and Alaska airlines.

"SkyWest believes this proposal provides the best overall option for air service in the Alpena community," Michael Thompson, vice president, market development, said in the bid proposal to DOT officials. "Given the connectivity at MSP and DTW, the well-timed schedule and reliable equipment, we expect to see continued growth in the number of passengers utilizing the service.

"SkyWest is excited about the possible opportunity to provide reliable air service to Alpena."

I'm excited as well to think after all this time, Alpena might very well have secured a quality airline to continue this important service for Northeast Michigan residents.

While I am predicting several pieces of positive economic news for our region in the months ahead, this could very well rank as among the best Northeast Michigan receives this year.



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