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Sun, Dec. 08

Great Lakes submits sole proposal for serving Prescott Airport

PRESCOTT - A company familiar to local flight passengers could be returning to the Prescott Airport.

This week, the U.S. Department of Transportation received just one proposal for providing commercial airline service in Prescott - from Great Lakes Airlines.

USDOT spokesman Bill Mosley reported on Wednesday that the department's latest round of requests for proposals generated only a response from the Wyoming-based Great Lakes, the same airline that provided the commuter service from Prescott to Phoenix from 2005 to 2007.

The request for proposals was necessary after the Mesa Air Group terminated its service, effective May 31.

Mesa, which had been providing daily flights to Phoenix and Las Vegas, was the long-time commercial flight provider in Prescott before Great Lakes won the federal Essential Air Service subsidy contract to provide the service in 2005.

When the contract came up for renewal in 2007, city officials pushed for the return of Mesa. The airline, which previously had served Prescott since 1989, won the new contract and returned to the Prescott Airport in October 2007.

Then, in early May, Mesa announced it would be shutting down its Air Midwest subsidiary, causing the termination of the Prescott contract. Since this past weekend, no commercial flights have been leaving from the Prescott Airport.

The next step for the USDOT will be solicitation of comments from Prescott and Kingman on Great Lakes' proposal, Mosley said.

City Manager Steve Norwood noted on Wednesday that the Great Lakes' proposal does not deal with the city's main issue over the company's previous situation - the use of Terminal 2 at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport, rather than Terminal 4.

During Great Lakes' previous time providing the Prescott-to-Phoenix service, passenger numbers dropped to about 4,000 to 5,000 per year, Norwood said, which was far from the 10,000 passengers that the city had projected for Mesa.

"Their past performance pretty much speaks for itself," Norwood said of Great Lakes.

While noting that the airline had a reliable on-time record, Norwood maintained that the use of Terminal 2 kept many local passengers from using the service.

"The bottom line is they're still in Terminal 2," Norwood said, adding that the city's formal comments to the USDOT likely would include a suggestion for use of Terminal 4, which serves U.S. Airways.

In addition, Norwood noted that Great Lakes' proposal includes three daily flights to Phoenix, but no flights to Las Vegas, while Kingman would have two daily flights to Las Vegas.

The city also likely would recommend that Prescott have one daily flight to Las Vegas, Norwood said, which would be similar to the schedule Mesa provided.

A Great Lakes official was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon, but the company's proposal stated that the airline would "utilize our interline agreement and our United and Frontier code share agreements," which would be similar to the arrangement the company used in its previous contract for Prescott service.

While the USDOT has set no deadlines for awarding the new contract, Mosley said, "We aim to speed this through, given the circumstances."

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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