What the future of the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport will be in light of Delta Air Lines’ announcement that it intends to drop service here, nobody knows.
But what airport officials want residents of the Brainerd lakes area to know is that air service in some form will continue at the airport.
“The name on the plane may change but the anticipation is we will continue to have service,” said Steve Sievek, airport manager. “We don’t want the public in Brainerd giving up on us. It’s not a case of gloom and doom at all.”
Sievek said that sentiment was the focus of the airport commission’s public relations and marketing subcommittee, which met Thursday. Delta last week informed the city and county, which jointly own the airport, that it intends to cease air service in Brainerd and 23 other small cities across the country.
Rep. Chip Cravaack, R-Minn., in a news release last week said Delta’s notice of termination triggered a process where the U.S. Department of Transportation will seek a carrier to provide unsubsidized air service for Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Great Lakes Airlines has expressed interest and Sievek said Delta is pushing for Great Lakes to take over that service.
Cravaack, who serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is vice chairman of the aviation subcommittee and chairman of the Essential Air Service Working Group, said if the DOT can’t find a carrier willing to provide unsubsidized air service it will accept sealed bids from carriers willing to provide a minimum level of service with a federal subsidy. Such carriers must document that they cannot make a profit without a subsidy. If no sealed bids are received then Delta Air Lines or its subsidiaries, Pinnacle Airlines and Mesaba Aviation, will be required to continue air service in Brainerd while being federally subsidized.
Sievek will be sitting in Monday on a teleconference with a senior vice president with Delta and on Tuesday he will be in Bemidji for a meeting of the Local Airline Service Action Committee to discuss the issue with other airport managers and Minnesota Department of Transportation Aeronautics.
“Hopefully between these two encounters we may know a little more,” Sievek said.
Beth Pfingsten, chairwoman of the airport commission, said what is known is that Delta will stay in Brainerd until the commission has answers to its questions. She noted the subcommittee has been meeting for some time to find a second carrier for the airport. The goal now, she said, is to continue that work while marketing the airport for Delta’s replacement.
“We’re not going to roll over and die here,” Pfingsten said. “We will have a viable airport and, if at all possible, with carrier options. So we’re telling people to continue to plan their vacation, continue to fly out of Brainerd. We will be here into the future, we just don’t know what it’s going to look like down the road.”
Pfingsten noted Sun Country uses the airport several times a year for charter flights. She would like to see a carrier with direct connections to Chicago or Denver.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.