UPDATE: SkyWest chosen to fly out of Oneida County airport
UPDATE - Airline travelers in northern Wisconsin will soon have new options for flights.
The US Department of Transportation chose SkyWest to operate out of the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport.
SkyWest is affiliated with Delta, which pulled out of the airport a year ago.
It will run 50 passenger jets twice daily through its hub in Minneapolis, with domestic and international connections.
Joseph Brauer/Airport Director: "It will make travel for them that much easier and, again, the frequent fliers that we had on Delta Airlines over a year ago now will be able to come back to our airport and use our airport again."
A year ago Frontier Airlines announced it wanted to end service out of Oneida County. But federal law requires a carrier at the airport.
Frontier's flights will continue until SkyWest starts up its service.. which the airport director expects to happen in mid-November to mid-December.
RHINELANDER (WAOW) -- The only airline left at the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport doesn't want to stay. One thing stands in the way of Frontier airlines leaving -- the fact that they're the only airline left at that airport.
A law put in place in the 1970's protects airline service to municipalities. Since Frontier is the only carrier flying in and out of Rhinelander, another airline needs to take its place before taking off for good.
Service at the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport seems to be shrinking. The restaurant inside closed earlier this summer. And just this month, Delta stopped its service between Minneapolis and Rhinelander. Now, leaders with Frontier Airlines said they plan to go too.
"We have filed with the Department of Transportation to suspend our service in Rhinelander effective on March 8th of next year," said Bob Westgate, the senior director of planning and scheduling for Frontier Airlines.
Leaders from Frontier said they plan to scale back other routes around the Midwest too. In October, Frontier will stop sending flights between Milwaukee and St. Louis. And in November, six more routes will be cut. Those carry passengers between Milwaukee and six other cities -- Madison, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Cleveland and Dayton.
Westgate said it's nothing personal. With an economy that's keeping everyone on their toes, airlines are no exception.
"We're in the process of retiring our smaller aircrafts based on economics -- a combination of stubbornly high fuel prices, an economy which is not in the greatest condition and then just general competitive situation at the airport in Milwaukee," said Westgate.
The Essential Air Service program basically guarantees small communities the opportunity to maintain a minimal level of flights in and out of their area. The Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport is one of eleven in the state protected under the law. That's why Frontier technically isn't allowed to leave.
"We are now the only airline serving Rhinelander, and as a consequence the Department of Transportation may ask that we maintain our service there until a replacement airline can be found," said Westgate.
"I came in Rhinelander three times last year and I used that airport those three times," said Philippe St. Onge, who lives in Montreal. "It was fine. I liked the experience."
Planes still fly in and out of Rhinelander on a daily basis. The route connects travelers to Milwaukee twice a day. Some riders said they like flying through that airport, where smaller groups of people keep turbulence low.
"It's a very small airport. It's quick," said St. Onge. "It's very different from a big airport so everything is quicker. The process of going through security is quicker."
Newsline 9 tried to get in touch of representatives from the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport but they weren't available to talk to us.