An agreement between the U.S. Department of Transportation and SkyWest Airlines will ensure continued commercial air service to Alpena County Regional Airport, Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow announced Friday.
The agreement preserves airline service through the Essential Air Service Program, which supports airline service in communities that might otherwise lack commercial air service. Alpena is one of eight Michigan communities served by the EAS program.
"I'm pleased that we've reached a resolution that meets the needs of Alpena and surrounding communities," Levin said. "Businesses, government and individuals in the community have worked hard to make sure Alpena will get the airline service it needs, and with this agreement, the Department of Transportation has succeeded in maintaining this vital economic lifeline for the community."
"This is great news that will allow the Alpena region to boost tourism and grow its economy," said Stabenow. "Increased access to transportation and commercial air services will help create jobs and more travel options for the Alpena area."
In July of 2011, Delta Air Lines, which provided EAS service to Alpena, announced it would cancel its service to Alpena and 23 other communities. Several rounds of solicitations for a replacement airline failed to produce a suitable replacement. With support from Senators Levin and Stabenow, the community sought additional time to reach out to other airlines, including SkyWest, efforts that brought about the agreement announced today.
The community strongly supported the SkyWest bid, which includes daily service from Alpena to Detroit and Minneapolis --St. Paul.
EAS serves a critical function by connecting small or rural communities to the nationwide air transport system, keeping them linked to the global economy. In February, Congress passed legislation supported by Senators Levin and Stabenow to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs, including EAS. That legislation rejected the approach of a bill passed in the House that would have eliminated EAS.