SkyWest flights to continue for the year

·3 min read

Jun. 30—Flights at the Joplin Regional Airport will continue until the end of the year with SkyWest Airlines, operated by United Express.

The airline will extend dual-hub airline service to Chicago and Denver until then, the city said in a statement Wednesday.

A daily nonstop flight to and from Chicago will be offered. Flights to and from Denver will be available five days a week with nonstop service Thursday through Monday.

SkyWest Airlines notified the U.S. Department of Transportation in March that the airline intended to terminate United Express service at Joplin and 28 other United Express communities this summer. The airline said the reason was because of a national pilot shortage that has affected many U.S. airlines and led to flight cancellations, according to industry information.

Joplin and the other 28 cities receive the service from a DOT program that provides subsidies to the airline for the service. The department issued an order in response that required SkyWest to continue service temporarily while bids were sought.

Online DOT records indicate that only one bid was received, and that was from Boutique Air, offering service from one of the cities, Sioux City, Iowa, to Las Vegas.

City management worked with airline consultant Mike Mooney from Volaire Aviation Consulting and with SkyWest officials to find a way to provide air service.

On June 13, that city submitted a letter from its airport board director rejecting the Boutique Air proposal and asking that the SkyWest service be continued with fewer flights.

That city, like Joplin, received subsidized service from American Airlines. The subsidy ultimately was dropped. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp decline in travel, and American Airlines in 2020 notified cities like Joplin and Sioux City that it would drop service.

American filed to return those cities to the subsidy program, and SkyWest won the bid to serve Joplin. It offered flight service to three hubs last year. It soon dropped service to one of the hubs, Houston, but continued to provide 12 flights a week to and from Chicago and Denver.

When SkyWest filed notices in March that it was dropping service in Joplin, the airline told the Globe in a statement that it was "eager to work with officials toward solutions that would enable us to reconnect this community to the National Air Transportation System in the future, and we are committed to remaining flexible and adjusting our plans if the situation improves more quickly than currently expected."

City and economic development officials have said Joplin needs commercial air service for both business and leisure travel customers.

"Air service is essential for our community, and drives economic growth and opportunities," City Manager Nick Edwards said in a statement issued Wednesday. "We are pleased to say that Joplin residents can be confident in booking flights for the rest of 2022."

Flights from Joplin Regional Airport can be booked on www.FlyJoplin.com or United.com or other travel websites, the city said.