In July, Delta Airlines announced a series of service adjustments that would impact air service at airports in Fort Dodge, Mason City, Sioux City and Waterloo. Adjustments included the discontinuation of service in Fort Dodge and Mason City, and a possible discontinuation of service at Sioux City and Waterloo by the airline unless the service becomes subsidized through the U.S.Department of Transportation (DOT) Essential Air Service (EAS) program.
In reaction to the Delta announcement, the U.S. DOT released a request for proposals in September for commercial air service in the four Iowa communities, as well as 19 additional communities in the Midwest. Until new air service providers are in place, the U.S. DOT ordered Delta to continue providing air service in those communities until new service is established under subsidy agreements through the EAS program.
Proposals to serve the Iowa communities were due Oct. 14. The U.S. DOT is currently working with communities and interested airlines to determine which proposals are most feasible and will best serve the communities.
For Sioux City and Waterloo, proposals came from SkyWest operating as Delta Connection offering twice daily service to Minneapolis, and American Eagle offering twice daily service to Chicago. Both airlines would offer service on regional jets.
For Fort Dodge and Mason City, proposals came from Great Lakes offering flights to Minneapolis three times daily from Fort Dodge and four times daily from Mason City using 19-seat Beech 1900 aircraft. Great Lakes service would be offered through Delta’s reservation system and interline ticket/baggage agreements would be in place with American, Delta, Frontier, United and U.S. Airways. Proposals were also offered by Air Choice One offering multiple daily round trips from Fort Dodge and Mason City to Minneapolis on 9-passenger single-engine Cessna Caravans, as well as Sovereign Airlines, offering daily flights to Minneapolis or Chicago using jet or turboprop aircraft. Sovereign service would be subject to the charter company obtaining funding and an air carrier permit.
The U.S. DOT is soliciting input from the communities and selection is expected sometime in November or December. Carriers will be expected to start service approximately 90 days from the date of selection (unless special circumstances cause further delay). It is anticipated new service in the communities will begin early to mid-spring.