ALPENA - SkyWest Airline has officially made flight scheduling and pricing information available for Alpena County Regional Airport, and at least for now it appears the first flight will take place on Sept. 5. The cost of a round-trip ticket to Detroit Metropolitan Airport is cheaper than in the past and provides the same service as the former provider.
"The pricing is at $158 round trip, and I can't remember the price being under $300 in the past," Wendy LaCombe, owner of World Wide Travel, said. "A round trip to Minneapolis is only $265, which is also a great deal. It would be hard to drive to either of these places with the price of gas and parking and save anything. Sometimes people automatically assume it costs a lot more to fly out of Alpena, but really even if it is $100 more when you figure the expenses of driving, it is probably cheaper now."
Besides the prices, the flight times for the airport have been listed as well. LaCombe said the global distribution booking system shows there will be a flight to Detroit five days a week and to Minnesota every day. The one-hour flight to Detroit Monday-Friday will depart at 12 p.m., while the Minneapolis flight leaves at 5:55 p.m. On the weekend the flight to Minnesota will leave Alpena at 4:05 p.m. More importantly LaCombe said all the flights are affiliated with Delta, and travelers miles and free flights will be accepted by SkyWest. She said the people involved in finding a carrier to replace Delta did a good job and should be commended for their work.
"The schedule maybe isn't the greatest to start, but maybe it will be adjusted later," LaCombe said. "But I'm so excited about SkyWest. It is like Delta never left, and SkyWest is going to be a tremendous asset for the community. The people who worked on this and the consultant they hired did a great job, things ended up great."
Wes Horrock, spokesman for SkyWest, said the company wants to make flying from Alpena affordable and dependable for travelers. He said the current contract is for two years, but hopes the relationship between the community and the airline will go well beyond that.
"It was a long process, but we are excited and looking forward to working with and servicing the community in Alpena and surrounding area," Horrock said. "Our goal is to be competitive in the Alpena market and not only working with it for two years, but to have the service be sustained well into the future."
Horrock said there is a group in place that will monitor Alpena, and if adjustments to current pricing or schedule need to be made, they will be considered.
"We have a special marketing department which will analyze Alpena to be sure the flight times ensure maximum occupancy," Horrock said. "If a correction needs to be made to be sure we are taking advantage of the number of outbound flights from Detroit and Minneapolis, then we would obviously consider that."
In order to help SkyWest become sustainable in the community, it is imperative people take advantage of the lower-than-expected prices and fly locally instead of leaving from another airport, Jackie Krawczak, executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, said, adding SkyWest took a chance on Alpena and now it needs to support SkyWest.
"We don't want to have to go though something like this again, so we need to support SkyWest," Krawczak said. "We're pleased with what they have offered and look forward for fall to arrive so we can continue working together."
Horrock said people can purchase tickets for trips on SkyWest now at www.delta.com, or by booking through a travel agent.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.