Essential air service promised in Brainerd through 2023

“It does help our region to have access to safe and affordable and reliable air transportation,” Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Director Wright said.

Brainerd Regional Airport 6 - Kelly Humphrey.JPG
Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Air service to the lakes area through the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport is guaranteed to continue for at least the next three years, Congressman Pete Stauber announced this week.

Stauber said in a news release Wednesday, Dec. 16, the Minnesota Department of Transportation chose SkyWest Airlines to provide essential air service in Brainerd and International Falls from Feb. 1, 2021, through Jan. 31, 2024.

“I am excited to announce the Department of Transportation has selected the Brainerd and International Falls communities for Essential Air Service. This will provide residents in our rural communities with reliable air service and incentivize more small businesses to move to rural Minnesota,” Stauber said in a news release. “As a Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I am committed to protecting air service for rural communities and will continue to work to secure this service for other rural parts of Minnesota’s Eighth District.”

The Essential Air Service program guarantees small communities a minimal levy for scheduled air service. Through the program, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is mandated to provide these communities with access to the National Air Transportation System, which is generally accomplished by subsidizing two round trips a day with a 30- to 50-seat aircraft, or additional frequencies with smaller aircrafts to larger airports.

“The DOT has a process where they put it out for a bid,” Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Director Steve Wright said. “Airlines then submit bid applications to the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. They go through a comparison process, and they actually seek feedback.”


Back in September, the airport commission approved SkyWest to continue as its service provider. SkyWest operates in Brainerd through a partnership with Delta Airlines.

“SkyWest has been a good partner here in our market,” Wright said. “Prior to the pandemic, of course, we were breaking passenger records. On-time reliability has increased significantly, and so it’s been a very, very good product for our Brainerd lakes region.”

SkyWest also dedicated marketing dollars to the lakes area, Wright said, so residents can expect to see messages from the airline as it works to grow its air service in central Minnesota.

“It does help our region to have access to safe and affordable and reliable air transportation,” Wright said.

The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport offers daily flights with one stop in Minneapolis-St. Paul to thousands of locations across the world. For more information, visit .

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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