SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – While local air travelers have complained for several months about the quality of service provided by Alaska-based PenAir, announcement of the company’s filing for bankruptcy Monday was still a surprise.
According to Western Nebraska Regional Airport Manager Darwin Skelton, the Scotts Bluff County Airport Authority had already contacted the Department of Transportation, asking to begin the process of finding a new carrier.
“Fortunately for us, we had already asked the DOT to find a new contract, so we got the ball rolling last month,” Skelton said. “So when we heard the announcement today, we thought, ‘Oh, my goodness.’”
“It’s going to affect a lot of cities under the PenAir contracts, who will be trying to find new carriers,” he added. In addition to Scottsbluff, PenAir serves Kearney and North Platte, Neb., as well as Dodge City and Liberal, Kan., from its Denver, Colo., hub.
Skelton said PenAir had agreed to not fight Scottsbluff’s request for a new carrier last month, so that will speed the process.
The next step will be for the DOT to ask for contract proposals from potential carriers. DOT will compile a list and submit it to the local service providers, who will decide which proposals they want to pursue. The final decision will be made between DOT and the local communities.
“We hope the DOT proposals go out soon,” he said, adding that the departing provider normally continues service until the new carrier takes over
Realistically, Skelton said, the process could take longer than three months, which is proposed by PenAir as the time it needs to reorganize.