DECEMBER 2 — City officials hope the only commercial airline serving Joplin will be able to extend flights beyond December 31, but there’s no guarantee yet.
Joplin Regional Airport manager Bert Starkey said in an emailed response to Globe’s question about the status of SkyWest flights to Chicago and Denver: Hopefully we can weather this storm and do better in the end. ”
No changes have been made to flights in November, when SkyWest offered 12 round trips a week, 7 round trips to Chicago and 5 round trips to Denver. There is one change to the Chicago route in December.
“The Chicago flight includes a stopover in Decatur, IL,” Starkey wrote in an email reply. “It is our understanding that Joplin passengers will not disembark and will only board Decatur passengers bound for Chicago. Same goes for return flights. There is no official word that service extensions will take place after December. ”.
SkyWest Airlines notified the US Department of Transportation in March of its intention to terminate United Express service in Joplin and 28 other United Express communities last summer. The airline said the reason was a nationwide pilot shortage that affected many US airlines and led to flight cancellations.
Joplin and 28 other cities are served by the DOT program, which provides subsidies to airlines. The agency issued the order in response to his SkyWest notice that SkyWest must temporarily continue service while bids are sought. Only one bid from Boutique Air, a small airline with limited service, served some cities.
Joplin and its airport management worked with Mike Mooney of Volaire Aviation Consulting, the city’s airline consultant, and SkyWest officials to find a way to continue SkyWest’s service.
On June 13, the city submitted a letter from the airport board, rejecting Boutique Air’s offer and asking SkyWest service to continue with fewer flights.
According to Starkey and former airport manager Stephen Stockham, Joplin had plenty of passengers.
“It’s not the financial issues that are causing these problems with SkyWest,” Starkey said in an email. “Joplin Airport is an economically viable airport that fills planes when they can get them. It’s a nationwide issue that hits airports hard and we’re in regular contact and we’re dealing with this on a monthly basis with the airlines.Hopefully we weather this storm and eventually can get better.
SkyWest has not yet responded to emails from Globe asking about the airline’s intentions regarding the future of Joplin services.