Updated 3/12/12, 10:58 a.m. – Great Lakes Aviation will soon be the lone provider for passenger air service to and from the Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport.
It was announced late last week that Great Lakes will be replacing Frontier Airlines, which informed airport officials last September that it wanted to end its service to the Oneida County facility. Frontier had been providing two daily flights to Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport. In the official DOT agreement, Great Lakes indicates that they will be offering at least three daily flights to Minneapolis.
“It’s great news for us to again have service to the Twin Cities,” said Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport Director Joe Brauer. “This situation really ended up working out well for us. We should see a jump in passenger numbers now that we’ll again be offering flights to Minneapolis. Next to Chicago, Minneapolis has always been one of our biggest traffic-generators.”
According to the agreement, which is regulated by the Federal Department of Transportation, in accordance with the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, Frontier will be required to provide continual service out of Rhinelander until they come to an agreement with Great Lakes on when to transfer the service. According to Brauer, to his knowledge Frontier and Great Lakes have yet to discuss a transfer plan.
“The two companies have to sit down and figure out a transfer plan to assure that there will be no disruption of service,” said Brauer. “Right now we have no idea when the switch will take place.”
Great Lakes Aviation is certainly familiar with the Rhinelander area. The company provided regular flights to Minneapolis as United Express from 1990 until 2001, and also operated as an independent carrier for a few years, providing flights to and from Milwaukee in the mid-2000s. Brauer said he was looking forward to working with Great Lakes, which is based in Colorado, again.
“We’ve always had a terrific working relationship with the people at Great Lakes,” said Brauer. “They’ve managed to pick up a lot of the business that Frontier has dropped when they announced last year that they were no longer going to be serving smaller communities.”
Brauer also pointed out that passengers will also be able to use their Delta frequent flier miles through a marketing agreement Great Lakes has worked out with Delta Airlines.
“Certainly that relationship with Delta will increase Great Lakes’ marketing ability,” Brauer said. “It’s going to be a good thing for both airlines, and a great thing for passengers.”
Great Lakes will be using Beach 1900, 19-seat turboprop planes. As of right now, Brauer doesn’t see jet service returning to Rhinelander in the near future.
“The airlines found out that with the high cost of fuel, they have a hard time making money flying jets into small town America” Brauer said. “Great Lakes’ plan will be more economical for them.”
Brauer said that while not providing flights to the Milwaukee market will likely inconvenience some frequent fliers in the area, he doesn’t see many negatives in the switch going forward.
“Milwaukee is a very nice airport, but Minneapolis is a major hub,” said Brauer. “This switch is going to mean many more opportunities and more convenience for people choosing to fly out of Rhinelander.”
Editor Craig Mandli is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.