Delegation works to keep air service in Brainerd
With Delta Air Lines set to drop airline service to Brainerd, members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation are working to find a replacement carrie
On Saturday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sent a letter to Delta Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson asking the airline to continue service to greater Minnesota airport
In a phone interview Wednesday, Klobuchar said she has been in touch with Brainerd officials concerning Delta’s plans. And while Wyoming-based Great Lakes Airlines has expressed interest in serving the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport there is a concern with the company about how many planes it would use, the size of the planes and whether it will offer expanded area service.
Klobuchar said she’s asked Delta Air Lines to assist Great Lakes in bringing airline service to Brainerd. She said the company said it would do what it could to help. “They made no promises, obviously, but I was very emphatic that the request was reasonable given all the people that use the Brainerd airport,” Klobuchar said.
“There has to be a way to figure out how to not just leave Brainerd in the cold. That just can’t happen.” Great Lakes has been working with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Klobuchar said, and she also is willing to work with the department if requested.
Delta also agreed to contact Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Manager Steve Sievek to discuss concerns raised.
“Again, there were no promises but it’s better to have open channels of communication,” Klobuchar said. Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., on Tuesday said Delta’s notice of termination triggers a process where the U.S. Department of Transportation will seek a carrier to provide unsubsidized air service for Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.
Cravaack serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where he is vice chairman of the aviation subcommittee and chairman of the Essential Air Service Working Group.
Cravaack said if the DOT can’t find a carrier willing to provide unsubsidized air service it will accept sealed bids from carrier willing to provide a minimum level of service with a federal subsidy. Such carriers must document that they cannot make a profit without a subsid
If no sealed bids are received, Delta Air Lines or its subsidiaries, Pinnacle Airlines and Mesaba Aviation, will be required to continue air service in Brainerd while being federally subsidize
“Unfortunately, fuel prices remain elevated and I am concerned that if they stay as they are, we may be hearing more announcements like this from carriers across the country,” Cravaack said in a news release. “I think we should focus on producing energy here in the United States and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. This administration and leaders in the Senate continue to stifle energy production and we are all paying the price.”
On Monday, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., told Senate negotiators to not cut funding that supported air service to several Minnesota communities because it would damage economic development and job creation efforts in those regions.
Sen. Franken sent a letter to Senate members of a conference committee who are currently finalizing funding for essential air service, which supports carriers that fly into smaller airports, including some in Minnesota. He told negotiators that air service is critical to each of the communities’ efforts to create jobs and economic development.
“Reliable air service for communities in Minnesota and across the country is critical to efforts to attract and create jobs, not only in those communities, but also in the entire surrounding region,” Franken said in a news release.
“Cuts to the essential air service will be penny-wise and pound-foolish, since it will hurt job creation efforts at the very time we should be bolstering those efforts.”
Franken said essential air service funding is important to preserve air service in Minnesota communities served by Delta Airlines, which has indicated a desire to pull out of Bemidji, Thief River Falls, Brainerd, Hibbing and International Fall
Delta currently receives essential air service funds to serve Hibbing, Thief River Falls and International Falls.
Franken said Bemidji and Brainerd will likely become essential air service airports in the futur
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.