To the Editor:
The Gogebic-Iron County Airport Board recommends Air Choice One, headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., over Great Lakes Airlines, which has also entered a bid, as the carrier for Ironwood under the Essential Air Service program.
The board made their decision prior to holding an open public meeting on Feb. 13, where some air travelers said Air Choice One’s lack of a baggage-checking option with connecting flights is a deal breaker. We were told that such an agreement between Air Choice and full-service airlines was unlikely.
With Air Choice, you can check your bag from Ironwood to Chicago O’Hare. Period. You may collect it as you exit the plane. It’s up to you to check your bag with connecting airlines. On return flights on a major airline, unless you “carry on,” you will have to visit baggage claim in Chicago, check your bag to Ironwood, and make another trip through security before proceeding to your gate.
When federal regulations upped the hours to qualify as a commercial pilot by 500 hours, Great Lakes had to withdraw from Ironwood. But if passengers in their 19-seat Beechcrafts are limited to 10 or fewer (hardly a problem for Ironwood), they do have enough qualified pilots to serve our area with their fleet of 38 planes. They have applied for this provision, according to the airport board.
Air Choice One has five planes in their fleet — four single-engine Cessnas, which seat seven to nine, and one twin-engine Piper Navajo.
The Essential Air Service program process considers four factors: service reliability; contractual and marketing arrangements with a larger carrier at the hub; interline arrangements with a larger carrier at the hub; and community views. See the Department of Transportation website.
Great Lakes already has agreements with other major carriers. Air Choice’s website shows a stipulation in their three-year contract with Decatur, Ill., and Burlington, Iowa, that required agreements in electronic ticketing and baggage agreements with other carriers according to Global Distribution Center requirements. Why can’t our board negotiate that stipulation?