ALPENA - After almost a year of waiting, worrying, negotiating and waiting even more, a new airline has been selected to replace Delta Airlines at Alpena County Regional Airport. SkyWest Airlines was selected by the Department of Transportation Friday after it proposed a plan that would provide a 50-seat jet and two weekday flights - one to Detroit Metro and another to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport beginning in the fall.
Alpena Area Chamber or Commerce Executive Director Jackie Krawczak was a member of the local team leading the charge to find a suitable airline. She said SkyWest will be good for the area, and the community should be proud and supportive of it.
"People should be very excited about this and proud of the way everyone pulled together to get this done," Krawczak said. "Now we have to give SkyWest 100 percent of our support. I think this situation shows how easy it can be to lose something so important to us, so we have to stand behind SkyWest and support it."
SkyWest beat out three other bidders in the fouth and final round of bidding to be the new carrier. After overwhelming support was expressed to the federal government by the local community, the department named the airline as Delta's successor.
Mayor Matt Waligora, who was the contact person used by the DOT, said at no point did the team doubt a quality airline could be found.
"We found interest almost everywhere we went and with everyone we talked to, and we were always optimistic that if given enough time we could get someone to come here," Waligora said. "We are very appreciative of the time, effort and patience the DOT afforded us, and now we have to make sure we give SkyWest the support."
Over the course of almost a year, the team has worked vigorously to initially convince Delta to reconsider its position of leaving and then moving on to attract a suitable replacement. The search included talks with other air service providers and even a trip to California for a conference geared toward airlines and a trip to Utah for more meetings.
All the while the representatives from Alpena did their best to put a positive light on Alpena and how the new provider could flourish in it. The City of Alpena and Alpena County shared expenses to hire a consultant, Mike Mooney of Sixel Consulting, to help deal with the bids and airline terminology, as well as lead the way on communications. Krawczak said Mooney was the perfect middle man in dealing with the airlines and the DOT.
"He was incredibly important in all of this, and in my opinion he was the missing link we needed," Krawczak said. "He was the final puzzle piece to make this work."
Although an exact date hasn't been announced as to when SkyWest will assume its new role at the airport, Krawczak said from earlier discussion she believes it will be later in the year. She said because SkyWest offers many of the same services as Delta, passengers flying from Alpena shouldn't notice much of a change to what they are accustomed to.
"Everything we have been told leads us to believe the transition will be this fall," Krawczak said. "We anticipate a smooth transition and that the people will be pleased with what SkyWest has to offer."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.