Since SkyWest Airlines began serving Aberdeen Regional Airport, the average fare between Minneapolis and Aberdeen has dropped 20 percent, from $274 to $220.
That information is shown in passenger reports covering the year ending Sept. 30, 2012, for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Great Lakes Region. South Dakota is one of eight states in the Great Lakes Region.
Based in St. George, Utah, SkyWest has been serving Aberdeen since March 2012. It succeeded Mesaba Aviation and Pinnacle Airlines. SkyWest operates as a Delta Connection Carrier, just as Mesaba and Pinnacle did.
“SkyWest is able to set the rate from Aberdeen to Minneapolis and they typically set those rates lower than Delta would,” Aberdeen transportation manager Mike Wilson said. That fact is true of any airport served by SkyWest, he said.
But Delta Air Lines did quite a bit of work reducing fares before SkyWest came aboard, Wilson said. Some of the reduction took place in 2010, when the Sixel Consulting Group conducted an airfare comparison study for Aberdeen. The Great Lakes Region report ending Sept. 30, 2010, showed Aberdeen's average fare was $297.25. So Aberdeen's fares have been gradually decreasing, Wilson said.
The latest Great Lakes Region report shows that 21,940 people enplaned at the Aberdeen airport, compared to 21,530 during the previous 12-month period. Those numbers don't tell the full story, because they don't include people who travel internationally after leaving Aberdeen. They also don't include nonrevenue passengers, such as pilots and members of airline crews.
But the numbers are helpful in comparing Aberdeen to other airports in the Great Lakes Region, Wilson said. The report looks at 69 airports in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
The complete numbers Wilson uses show that 25,103 passengers enplaned in Aberdeen during the period. Passenger numbers increased about one and a half percent from 2011 to 2012. Between 2010 and 2011, the number rose almost 22 percent. Wilson attributes much of that increase to the move from turboprops to jets, which began in late 2010.
At Mayor Mike Levsen's State of the City address Feb. 7, there was some talk of luring a second airline to Aberdeen, because of de-icer problems at the airport. The de-icer truck that failed was the property of Delta Global Services, a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines.
Wilson said Thursday that SkyWest, operating as a Delta Connection Carrier, is “the best airline we can have in this community.”
SkyWest does a great job in that it's able to set the local fares, Wilson said. He also praised Delta's connections and level of service, saying it's “one of the best airlines across the country.”
Looking at the Great Lakes Region report, Wilson also pointed to three cities formerly served by Delta that have switched to Great Lakes Airlines, which is based in Cheyenne, Wyo. From 2011 to 2012, enplanements were down 24 percent in Pierre, 20 percent in Watertown and 8 percent in Jamestown, N.D.
In 2011, Delta announced that it was terminating service to 24 smaller markets, including Aberdeen, Watertown, Pierre and Jamestown.
In January 2012, the federal Department of Transportation selected SkyWest to serve Aberdeen through the federal Essential Air Service program. SkyWest, unlike Pinnacle and Mesaba, receives a subsidy to serve Aberdeen.