Originally Published: January 22, 2014 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT - An airline connection that has taken Prescott passengers to Denver International Airport for the past five years will go away in February.
The City of Prescott announced this past week that Great Lakes Airlines plans to discontinue its regular flights between Prescott and Denver on Feb. 1.
A revised flight schedule from the airline shows flights only between Prescott and Los Angeles International Airport.
Although a Great Lakes spokesperson declined to comment this week, Prescott Airport Manager Jeff Tripp reported that Great Lakes' passenger numbers on the Denver flights totaled less than 1,500 in 2013.
That compares with about 3,700 passengers on the Prescott-to-LAX flights.
Tripp said the most recent EAS contract does not require the flight to Denver, but rather offers it as an "and/or" option, along with the connection to LAX.
The airline has been offering one flight to and from Denver each day (14 flights per week), as well as two flights per day to and from LAX (28 total per week).
The new schedule will offer three flights per day to and from LAX Monday through Saturday and two flights to and from Los Angeles on Sundays.
For decades, Prescott's commercial airline service has operated under the federal Essential Air Service (EAS) subsidy program. Great Lakes has held the EAS contract for Prescott since about 2005.
In March 2013, when the council discussed the renewal of the contract, Great Lakes and two other airlines - SeaPort Airlines of Oregon, and Sovereign Air of North Dakota - had bid on the contract with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Both of the other airlines were offering flights between Prescott and Phoenix, while Great Lakes proposed the LAX and Denver flights. The company was asking for an increase in its annual subsidy from $1.8 million to $2.1 million. The city supported staying with Great Lakes, and the new contract began on May 1, 2013.
Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall mentioned the airline's proposal Tuesday, while commenting on the cancellation of the Denver flight. "When they made the proposal for the subsidy, that was part of the proposal," he said of the Denver connection.
So far, Kuykendall said city officials had been informed only about Great Lakes' change, but not the reasons for it. "That's all we know," he said. "We don't know any of the circumstances."
The Prescott-to-Denver link became a part of Great Lakes' schedule in 2009, when the airline eliminated regular flights between Prescott and Phoenix.
At that time, an airline official said the Prescott-to-Phoenix link was not generating significant traffic. Great Lakes added the Denver flight as an alternative.
While Great Lakes' overall "enplanement" numbers had shown decreases in past years - from 7,836 passengers in 2010 to 4,952 in 2012 - Tripp said the passenger total for 2013 stood at about 5,200.
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.
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