ALAMOSA — SkyWest Airlines, operating as United Airlines, will discontinue Alamosa flights sometime this summer.
The airline uses CRJ-200 aircraft between the San Luis Valley Regional Airport in Alamosa and Denver under subsidies provided under the federal Essential Air Service program (EAS). That program was created in 1978 to guarantee small communities like Alamosa are served by commercial airlines.
In a statement to the Valley Courier, SkyWest stated, “As a result of an ongoing pilot staffing imbalance across the industry, SkyWest expects to discontinue service in Alamosa beginning this summer. SkyWest has long been a supporter of the Essential Air Service (EAS) program and the critical need it fills in our national transportation infrastructure. We appreciate our partnerships and the support of the community, and we are committed to delivering a solid, reliable product through this transition. Our ground staff at Alamosa will be offered various options, including transfers within the company. Customers booked beyond the service date will be contacted to make alternate arrangements.
“We are eager to work with officials toward solutions that would enable us to reconnect this community to the National Air Transportation System in the future, and we are committed to remaining flexible and adjusting our plans if the situation improves more quickly than currently expected.”
Alamosa Airport Board President Randy Wright confirmed learning of SkyWest’s decision at Thursday’s board meeting during a Zoom call with Daniel Belmont of SkyWest. He called the action a challenge for the board.
“People were finally looking at us as a place to get to by air,” Wright said. “This is a real punch in the gut.”
Wright went on to point out that the San Luis Valley has always been resilient and “we’ll figure this out and get a new provider.” He noted that the two-year agreement with SkyWest was ending in 2022 and requests for quotes for the next two-year Essential Air Service (EAS) contract is scheduled to go out in September.
Wright said there are only a handful of EAS providers potentially able to serve the SLV airport including Boutique Air who proceeded SkyWest in that role. He added that it could be a challenge finding new providers with 29 airports currently in the same dilemma, and that the Department of Transportation (DOT) might have to be involved.
DOT manages EAS agreements across the country.