Quick, easy trips are about to become much longer and more difficult for some Delta Air Lines passengers in Michigan.
Bridge Michigan’s Paula Gardner reports several small airports in The Great Lakes State will lose some nonstop Delta Connection service to Detroit and Minneapolis next month.
“The changes at airports in Alpena, Sault Ste. Marie, Escanaba, Iron Mountain and Pellston will add hours to plane trips, limit seats and, in some cases, require overnight stays in Detroit or Minneapolis to flights that now can take one day,” she writes.
Ms. Gardner points out that the new flight changes — which take effect September 12 — resemble an “air travel version of a bus route: The plane starts at a hub and makes stops along the way to the other hub. At each point, some passengers can get off and new ones can board.”
The flights are marketed as Delta Connection hops and operated by SkyWest Airlines, a regional carrier.
It sounds to me like SkyWest is turning into Southwest. You know, the airline (in)famous for its roundabout ways of getting from point A to point B. (Like Seattle to Las Vegas — but maybe with stops in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Phoenix in between 🙂 ).
According to Ms. Gardner’s post, SkyWest claims the ongoing pilot shortage is causing the problem.
But here’s where that gets interesting. A well-placed airline industry source told me rumors are swirling that SkyWest is upset with the major airlines poaching so many of the regional’s pilots. Some people claim SkyWest is intentionally delaying its release of pilot records. Airlines require these documents when hiring prospective pilots, the source explained. So, if the pilots don’t receive them in a timely manner, it delays their start date at a new airline. Eye of the Flyer contacted SkyWest for comment and has not heard back. (We’ll update the post accordingly when/if SkyWest responds.)
EotF reader Dennis Lennox is a frequent flyer who flies in and out of Pellston nearly weekly.
“What if there are no passengers getting off or boarding at the stopover airport?” he said. “(Does the plane) still land?”
(But, hey, if the planes are full, maybe we’ll see some more of those $10,000 awards for taking flights a day or two later!)
Mr. Lennox forwarded me a copy of a letter he sent to the Department of Transportation’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Joel Szabat and USDOT Aviation Industry Analyst Michael Martin.
“Pellston will go from two departing flights at 9:45 a.m. and 2:09 p.m. and two arriving flights at 1:29 p.m. and 9:27 p.m. on September 11, 2022, to one departing flight at 5:48 p.m. and one arriving flight at 8:50 a.m. (yes, 8:50 a.m.) on September 12, 2022,” he explains. “Arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport at 6:56 p.m. (assuming an on-time arrival), the window for connecting flights is nearly nonexistent given Delta’s minimum connection time of 30 minutes for domestic-to-domestic flights and 60 minutes for domestic-to-international flights. Outside of a flight from Detroit to the Michigan state capital of Lansing, there are very few destinations reachable after 7:26 p.m. and 7:56 p.m. respectively.
“The entire (SkyWest Pellston) contract was based on the premise that passengers from Pellston would have ‘seamless connections’ via Delta’s ‘large and diverse network’ out of Detroit,” Mr. Lennox wrote. “SkyWest explicitly promised it would be ‘easy to get to destinations throughout the country and around the world.’ None of that will be true when the schedule changes take effect.”
Mr. Lennox told the feds he thinks “SkyWest is using the schedule changes in hopes of advancing its stated goal of reducing service to rural areas of the United States through the use of lesser-qualified pilots,” a change he claims “would lower costs but jeopardize the safety of passengers.”
This Really Isn’t Anything New
My native home state of North Dakota serves as an example of some “bus stop” style airline routing.
For example, SkyWest 5102 begins its day around 8:00 AM MDT in Denver (DEN). Then it heads to Devils Lake (DVL). From there, it takes a short, 11:30-ish AM hop down to Jamestown (JMS). Then just after 12:30 PM, OO5102 takes off for its final flight of the day — back to Denver.
I’m unsure how many people are on that early morning flight to Devils Lake, North Dakota. Do they have to stay in hotels in Denver after arriving the day before? Is there a hotbed of commuters from Denver to Devils Lake or Jamestown?
But there’s also another option for those needing to get to DVL. SkyWest 5104 travels the reverse route (DEN-JMS-DVL-DEN) starting at 1:25 PM. So, as I understand it, that gives people more options than what the folks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are about to face.
I Hope It’s Not a Sign of Things to Come
I’m trying to stay positive that these “milk run” flight routings don’t become more of an ordinary thing. Hopefully, these changes in Michigan will be temporary — and things will return to normal sometime soon.
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