News of new flights to Denver from a new air carrier, Great Lakes Airlines, came out of the Salina Regional Airport last week on Wednesday. That was followed just a couple of days later, late Friday night, by news of the current carrier, Seaport Airlines, abruptly ending its Salina service.
Portland based Seaport Airlines had been the commercial air service in and out of Salina for the past four years. They were set to be replaced by Great Lakes April 1st. Rather than continue service until then, Seaport ended its service to Salina Saturday. It also announced it would no longer fly to Great Bend, and five other cities in California.
CEO Charles Howell and President Douglas Voss of Great Lakes Airlines visited Salina on Wednesday.
Voss told KSAL News that the airline is excited about coming back. Great Lakes is no stranger to Salina. Prior to Seaport servicing Salina, Great Lakes had been the provider.
Howell said that Great Lakes been successful in Salina, but a couple of issues became challenging. Primarily, flights, at that time to Kansas City, were not non-stop. The planes landed in Manhattan. This at times made it a challenge for travelers to get seats.
The new service will fly non-stop from Salina to Denver. Voss said the flights will be in the air for about an hour and a half. There will be two daily flights on weekdays, and one flight daily on Saturday and Sunday.
According to Howell, there are multiple advantages to Salina. Free parking, both long-term and short term is huge he said. “A ticket to fly to Denver will cost you less than a speeding ticket would,” he said.
Another advantage is the convenience. Passenger will go through TSA airport security in Salina, and then will not have to in Denver. The goal is for a passenger to make a connecting flight in Denver within 50 to 55 minutes after landing from Salina.
One of the reasons cited by Seaport for pulling out of Salina was a nationwide pilot shortage. Voss agreed that there currently is a shortage. But he said that Great Lakes aggressively looks for pilots. The company is currently adequately staffed, and is looking to immediately hire a Salina crew.
Great Lakes hopes to work closely with Salina Kansas State University Polytechnic campus. The school’s aviation program is one of the best in the country, graduating highly skilled pilots, mechanics, and others each year.
Great Lakes has a fleet of 30-seat turbo prop aircraft with a stand up cabin, flight attendant, and lavatory on board.
The air service in Salina is supported by U.S. Department of Transportation essential air service funding.
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