ALPENA - The one year anniversary for SkyWest as the air service provider at Alpena County Regional Airport is approaching and thus far the airline is pleased with the response and support it has received from travelers in Northeast Michigan. So pleased in fact the company and the airport could begin working out details on an extension to the original two-year deal.
The airport and SkyWest have seen a significant increase in enplanements since Delta Airlines discontinued operations locally. Over the last year some months have seen an increase of more than 100 percent compared to the previous year. Marissa Snow, a spokesperson for SkyWest said the enplancement numbers are encouraging and overall the airline is pleased with how it has been received and utilized.
"I really think the people are liking what we are offering and word of mouth has spread about the dependability and good service," Snow said. "Overall I would have to say the airport is meeting and, in some instances, exceeding our original expectations."
Through May 31 there have been 6,974 enplanements compared to 4,064 for the same time period in 2012. In May alone there were 1,717 enplanements, which according to Airport Manager Billi McRoberts is the most the airport has had for a single month since data has been tracked. Last May there were 868 paid passengers. It is numbers like these that make it look as if a longer contract would be beneficial to both the airline and the airport. Snow said SkyWest is in the process of reviewing all aspects of its service in Alpena and once the data is examined talks between the two sides will begin in 2014 on a new contract.
"We expect the conversations to start at the beginning of next year," Snow said. "Right now our analysis is ongoing, but we have a good relationship with the airport and with the community, so we're looking forward to having that conversation."
Something else that will be explored will be the schedule of flights to and from Detroit and Minneapolis to Alpena. As the number of flyers continues to increase, so might their options for flights, at least during certain parts of the year. Snow said SkyWest is always looking for ways to best serve its customers and adding to what it offers them is always a possibility.
"When the schedule does get changed it is usually on a seasonal basis and if the market reacts positively and remains strong then there could be more changes," Snow said. "They would only be done however if the demand allowed for the increase and I really only think they would be seasonable."
The only notable concern SkyWest has had with the airport is the size of its passenger holding area where travelers wait to board their flight after being screened by security. The current room only has a capacity for about 14 travelers and until they are seated on the jet, the security process must stop. As a result it takes a longer period of time to get everyone screened and on the plane.
It appears this problem will resolved soon, however, as construction on a new holding area is set to commence early in July and be finished before Aug. 1. the new addition will be able to hold as many as 40 passengers and cost between $30,000 and $40,000 to complete.
"That was our primary concern and I think this will remedy things," Snow said. "I think the addition will just add more to the customer experience with that expansion. Right now things are going very well and both the Detroit market and Minnesota market are doing well. SkyWest is happy to be in Alpena and to be a vital part of the community."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.