Sawyer International Airport will have one less flight route beginning next month.
Sawyer International Airport will have one less flight route--Marquette to Minneapolis--starting next month, according to Airport Manager Duane DuRay.
This comes after Delta Air Lines announced the suspension of seven routes and three U.S. cities, all effective January 10th.
DuRay says this suspension of service has more to do with structural and management changes within SkyWest Airlines--the airline that provides carrier service for Delta in this market--and not necessarily due to capacity or passenger-driven reasons.
"SkyWest Airlines has been running what they call a pro-rate station. And what that means is SkyWest is able to adjust and amend the flight schedules in and out of Marquette and set the prices from, let's say, Marquette to Detroit and Marquette to Minneapolis for those Delta connections," says DuRay.
"So they, for quite some time, have been running us as a pro-rate station. Knowing that Marquette has been a very lucrative market, they've taken the risk. And with that, one of the particular aspects of those changes have brought along the desire for SkyWest to limit their exposures. If I'm understanding what I'm told, they're limiting their exposures and they have transferred Marquette back to Delta and now SkyWest still will be operating our flights."
What this means is Delta is now carrying all of the risk--designating the prices and destinations.
"It appears at this time, Delta corporate doesn't feel the Minneapolis route fits into their current scope of operation," DuRay added.
It's not certain at this time whether Delta will bring back the Marquette-Minneapolis route. DuRay stressed that this is a suspension of service, not a termination.
"We are hopeful that this is going to be reinstated in the future, but as of right now, the airport really does not have a definite answer on timelines."
How big of an impact the loss of this route--a full one-third of Sawyer's flights--will have on the Marquette area remains to be seen.
"When you look at the opportunities or the options that travelers have, primarily because our current hub locations are Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis, the loss of one of those destinations is 30% of our hubs," says DuRay.
"So we lose a significant percentage of options, but it's all relative to the fact that we only have three options. I mean, if we had just two options and we lost one, that's even worse yet."
Dennis Lennox, a frequent Delta customer with ties to the Marquette area, told us, "the elimination of the Marquette route is obviously a huge blow to not just Marquette but also the broader Upper Peninsula region. At the same time, it comes as other regional Michigan airports, like Kalamazoo and Lansing, are losing service."
While this isn't good news for Sawyer, passengers, or the community, DuRay points out that passenger numbers in the winter from Marquette are much smaller than in the summer.
In fact, it's not unusual for flights to Minneapolis to be suspended for short periods of time due to seasonal fluctuation.
Despite the challenges presented by Delta's decision, DuRay maintains that he and his team are being proactive in finding solutions.
"Sawyer International and Marquette are actively looking at options to address to the air carriers on how we can either regain Minneapolis or compensate for that loss."
So if you're flying through Minneapolis for the holidays, try to enjoy it, because it might be the last time you fly that route for a while--if ever again.