ALPENA - The amount of positive feedback supporting Sky West Airlines as the replacement to Delta Airlines in Alpena has pleased those dealing with the Department of Transportation. In fact, there is a sense of excitement about what the airline has to offer that the current service does not.
According to Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jackie Krawczak, there is still time for those who wish to submit comment and communications to the federal government through the chamber. At this point, the DOT has not indicated when a replacement will be named or when it will take over air service at the Alpena County Regional Airport.
Krawczak said she expected a lot of people to support the Sky West bid, and thus far that has proved to be the case. She said people also are excited about having the option of taking a flight to either Detroit Metro Airport or Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for their connecting flight.
"We're getting close to 100 letters of support for Sky West, and we're happy with what we are seeing," Krawczak said. "I knew people would support it, but what is exciting is the amount of people happy about being able to fly to Minneapolis as well. It is great to see people support the chance to have two options."
In the DOT's fourth round of bids to find a new carrier for Alpena, Sky West proposed to use a 50-seat jet for two weekly flights daily during the week - one to Detroit and the other to Minnesota. Over the weekend the airline will provide a single flight to Minneapolis exclusively. Mayor Matt Waligora said the people he has communicated with are hopeful Sky West will be named by the DOT and pleased with the fact Sky West operates under the Delta brand and code.
"I have heard a lot of support and especially about the aspect of a flight to Minnesota," Waligora said. "Having the Delta connection is huge as well, because people can still use their miles and not have to deal with checking baggage multiple times. People have really gotten behind what Sky West is proposing."
Krawczak said the DOT hasn't set a deadline for comment from the local community, and the team's intent is to submit letters until a decision is reached. She said early in the process when the group put out a call for action, concerned citizens contacted the DOT in droves and packed the department's email system. To avoid the same from occurring this time, the DOT has requested all comment be forwarded from the chamber.
"They were getting swamped and their in-boxes packed, so they contacted us and requested we submit them in groups," she said. "We were happy to meet that request."
Krawczak said anyone who wishes to submit a letter of support can do so by contacting the chamber at 354-4181 and they will assist in the handling of the communication.
Waligora said he hasn't heard from the DOT and reminds everyone to stay patient. He said he understands everyone is anxious for a resolution to this issue, which began in July 2011, but it has only been a little more than a week since the bids were opened. He said if things drag on and he determines too much time is taken, he will follow up with the DOT.
"It hasn't been that long yet, so I'm not going to call them yet," Waligora said. "If it gets outside of what my comfort level is, or what that point is that I think we should have heard something, then I'll contact them. We are not at that point yet, though."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.