ELY (AP) -- Northwest Airlines has discontinued its seasonal service to the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
After learning April 8 that Northwest planned to stop service to Ely, airport manager Jim Preblich said Monday that it's now a "done deal" because it's too late to staff the airport for seasonal service even if it were restored.
Northwest has offered service to Ely Airport since 1996 through Mesaba Airlines, an affiliate company that flies as Northwest Airlink.
Northwest's presence required the Ely Airport to employ eight people, including security, firefighters, baggage handlers, a ticket agent and a refueler.
Last year, Northwest flew 703 people to Ely and carried about the same number away from the airport in the four months it operated. The airline offered one daily flight aboard a 30-seat Saab 340 that began service in the Twin Cities, stopped in Hibbing, then continued to Ely before retracing the journey.
Service ran from June 2 through Sept. 7, a peak period for Boundary Waters tourists.
"The impact probably will not be immense," said Steve Piragis, owner of Piragis Northwoods Canoe Outfitting Co. in Ely. "But I think it will be noticed."
Piragis said the nearest commercial air service will now be in Hibbing, roughly 90 minutes away.
Doug Jordan, owner of Jordan's Canoe Outfitters in Ely, said most of his clients have been using the Duluth or Hibbing airports anyway.
"I've probably had one party in the last three years that's flown into Ely," Jordan said.
Preblich said plenty of other people view restoring air service to Ely as an important priority.
"By no means are we ready to accept that commercial air service to Ely is gone and done," he said.
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