Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The director of sales and marketing for Great Lakes Airlines said essential air service is continuing in Montana, although some flights have been canceled since the service resumed Feb. 1 due to a lack of passengers. “We need people to start using the service, we need it, we need it, we need it,” Monica Taylor of Great Lakes, based in Cheyenne, Wyo., said this morning “Not just Great Lakes but you, the community.” Taylor said 13 round-trip flights from Havre to Billings have been canceled due to lack of passengers. Four flights have been canceled due to weather and six due to mechanical problems, she said. The airline has operated 99 round-trip flights, she said. Great Lakes serves 66 communities with its flights, Taylor said. About 95 percent of that service is through essential air service, where the federal government pays airlines to operate flights in otherwise unprofitable communities. Havre and the rest of Montana was without essential air service for mostOf a year after Big Sky Airlines went out of business in 2008. Big Sky had operated essential air service since 1980. Great Lakes, the only other company which had bid on the Montana essential air contract in November 2007, was awarded the contract to take over for Big Sky, but was not able to resume any flights until September 2008 when it began running flights from Denver to Sidney and Lewistown. Feb. 1 the airline began running flights from Billings to Havre, Glendive, Wolf Point and Glasgow, and added a second flight in April. Taylor said that if no one has reserved a seat, it doesn’t make financial sense to fly the plane. Even though the government subsidizes the flight, Great Lakes loses money if no tickets are purchased, she said. “If there’s nobody booked on it ahead of time, there’s no sense to operate that flight, and it saves the taxpayers money as well,” Taylor said. She said that while Great Lakes has no interest in discontinuing the service to Havre, if the service is not used, it is possible the federal government would not continue to subsidize the flights. “There is always the chance it will go away if it is not being used,” Taylor said.