Skywest Airlines says it will stop its Essential Air Service flights to 29 airports including Scottsbluff, Kearney, and North Platte in 90 days.
A formal notice of intent filed with the US Dept of Transportation puts the date as on or before June 10.
Utah-based Skywest, which flys primarily as United Express, cites a shortage of pilots for the decision to end service on 13 of its 39 regional flights in 17 states including Wyoming and South Dakota in addition to Nebraska.
Western Nebraska Regional Airport Director Raul Aguallo told KNEB News he learned of it on a conference call with the airline Wednesday night and that Skywest said it would continue service as usual until its current contract expires this summer.
Skywest said it’s dropping the routes because of a pilot shortage. There aren’t enough new pilots coming into the industry to replace those retiring, and the major airlines are poaching co-pilots from Skywest and other regional carriers as soon as they reach 1,500 hours of flight time in qualifying jet aircraft.
A similar situation led Penn Air, Skywest’s predecessor in Scottsbluff, to take the same action and drop its contract. Before that, the airport replaced Great Lakes after the airline sharply reduced service for the same reason.
Aguallo told KNEB he’s hopeful other regional air carriers, especially those already in Denver, would be interested in bidding for the EAS contract. The DOT is scheduled to open bidding for the contract this week.