The public should continue to use Aberdeen's airport and encourage South Dakota's congressional delegation to continue a funding program that helps rural airports, local officials said.
The general public will not see a change in ticketing and should keep booking flights, said Aberdeen Transportation Director Mike Wilson. Delta has filed a notice to apply for Essential Air Service grant funding to continue to serve Aberdeen. Earlier this month, the airline said it could no longer serve 24 communities, including Aberdeen, because the company is losing too much money.
"It is important for us to keep service for communities like ours," Wilson said.
The Essential Air Service Program prohibits an airline from leaving if the city does not have a second airline, he said. Although Aberdeen has been designated an Essential Air Service community, Delta does not receive grant funds for serving it.
In the future, Congress is pushing to end the Essential Air Service program entirely and to reduce the funding over the next few years, Wilson said. To ensure the program continues, local people in rural communities need to support it, said Sharon Stroschein, northeast area director for the office of U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.
"People need to encourage your Congress to support the program because states like us don't want to lose it," she said.
Despite Aberdeen's ticket sales being up by 24 percent from last year, Delta says that it lost $3 million over the past five years in Aberdeen and $1 million last year alone, Wilson said. The loss is because jet fuel prices have risen by 40 percent from the first half of 2010, he said.
Aberdeen's ticket prices are competitive with other airports, including Sioux Falls, because Aberdeen offers free parking, Wilson said.
Gail Ochs, president of the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce, also wants to see the community support its local airport.
"As a community, we all can make a difference by choosing to utilize our local airport for personal and professional travel needs, " she said. "Aberdeen's airport is vital to the continued growth and success of businesses in our region."
Pierre, one of the cities that Delta has said it will leave, is also served by Great Lakes Airlines, Wilson said. Delta can't be required to stay there because it is not the last carrier serving the community, he said.
"If this program was not in place, Delta could leave, so we are fortunate to have it," he said. "Congress needs to continue to fund this program."