Alpena County has selected SkyWest Airlines to continue to provide flights in and out of town.
Through the federal governments Essential Air Service (EAS) program, airlines bid on service to smaller airports across the country every two years.
During the latest round of bidding, SkyWest and Boutique Air both submitted proposals for air service in and out of Alpena. Local officials selected SkyWest, which is asking the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) for an annual subsidy of a little more than $5.5 million to provide flights, an increase of approximately $1.7 million or 45% over the previous two-year contract, which was a 57% increase over the two years before that.
SkyWest must be confident their proposal will be accepted by the DOT because they have already adjusted their online booking to reflect the new flight schedules in the proposal, starting September 12. Alpena flyers will no longer be able to take a direct flight to Detroit in the morning. Instead, a morning flight will arrive in Alpena with service to Minneapolis, Minnesota. An afternoon flight will arrive from Minneapolis and touch downtown in Detroit at 6:50 p.m.
In addition, due to a pilot shortage, the Alpena flights will now be “tagged,” which essentially means the flight to Minneapolis will first make a stop at Chippewa County International Airport, southwest of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The flight back from Minneapolis will also stop in Chippewa County before proceeding to Alpena.
The SkyWest proposal includes 12 flights per week in and out of Alpena, but airport manager Steve Smigelski was told by the airline company that number will be bumped up to 14, or two per day. While Smigelski understands the new flight schedule will take some time for frequent flyers to adjust to, he believes it is a win for the local airport, noting that the Minneapolis airport is a main hub for SkyWest, which should cut down on maintenance and flight crew delays that have occurred in the past.
SkyWest also told Smigelski that two-thirds of all Alpena flyers head west, which makes the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport a better option for connections.
The new proposed daily flight schedule can be viewed below. The DOT is expected to review and make a decision on the SkyWest proposal in the near future.
NEW SKYWEST FLIGHT SCHEDULE IN AND OUT OF ALPENA EFECTIVE SEPTEMBER 12, 2022:
Depart Detroit 8:25 a.m., arrived Alpena 9:34 a.m.
Depart Alpena 10:04 a.m., arrive Chippewa Co. 10:51 a.m.
Depart Chippewa Co. 11:21 a.m., arrive Minneapolis 12:07 p.m.
Depart Minneapolis 1:25 p.m., arrive Chippewa Co. 3:52 p.m.
Depart Chippewa Co. 4:22 p.m., arrive Alpena 5:09 p.m.
Depart Alpena 5:40 p.m., arrive Detroit 6:50 p.m.
***THERE IS A ONE HOUR TIME DIFFERENCE BEWEEN CHIPPEWA COUNTY AND MINNEAPOLIS