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Unknowns remain for air service here

Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Manager Steve Sievek described Wednesday’s meeting with Great Lakes Airlines and Minnesota Department of Aeronautics personnel as beneficial but said there continued to be more unknowns than knowns regarding the future of air service in Brainerd.

The informational meeting in the Twin Cities included representatives of outstate airports and Minnesota’s two U.S. senators. Sievek said Thursday in his email that Rep. Chip Cravaack’s office was not represented.

Sievek said Great Lakes, which has been identified as a likely replacement air carrier when Delta Air Lines terminates its service to Brainerd, discussed its operation and plans.

Great Lakes, he said, serve 42 communities with more than 300 flights a day. All flights go into the Denver hub and there’s a strong relationship with United Airlines. Great Lakes, he said, is looking to expand into the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and wants to serve seven of the eight communities affected by Delta’s pullout. This group would include all of the affected Minnesota airports, two in Iowa and two in the Dakotas. Great Lakes’ start-up service in Minnesota would be with the Beech 1900 aircraft. Great Lakes was in the Twin Cities working out gate arrangements with the MSP airport and putting together an interline agreement with Delta. 

Great Lakes, Sievek said, was non-committal on equipment upgrades, frequencies or seasonal fluctuations because the representatives don’t know if they’ll be the successful bidder and their concerns about the future of funding for the Essential Air Service program. If selected, Sievek reported that the Great Lakes Air Lines personnel said they would aggressively pursue the new market.