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Watertown, Pierre Hope to Add Subsidized Flights to Minneapolis

Watertown and Pierre could add Minneapolis to their federally subsidized air service. At a special lunchtime meeting on Friday, the Watertown City Council followed Pierre in approving a contract with Aerodynamics, Inc., that would drop one daily Denver flight but add two to Minneapolis:

From a time and money standpoint, the new route does present complications. Mainly, a flight to Denver would only occur once per day instead of twice and would take off from Watertown no earlier than approximately 10:20 a.m. with a stop in Pierre at approximately 11 a.m.

On the flip side, Watertown flights to Minneapolis-St. Paul would occur twice per day, at approximately 6:55 a.m. and 4:10 p.m., with returning flights scheduled for approximately 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. The flights would take approximately 55 minutes.

To [Mayor Sarah] Caron, the tradeoff of one less daily flight to Denver to add flights to Minneapolis-St. Paul is worth it.

“We can’t have our cake and eat it too,” she said. “There’s a sense that we would more than make up in enplanements going to Minneapolis for business travel by removing one of the Denver flights” [Dan Crisler, “City Decides to Stick with ADI for Air Service,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2018.04.14].

The current Watertown–Pierre–Denver flights are subsidized by the federal Essential Air Service program to the tune of $4.5 million for the Pierre leg and $2.3 million for the Watertown leg. Aberdeen gets its Minneapolis route with about $1 million in EAS subsidy. Watertown airport manager Todd Syhre says accessing Minneapolis would require boosting the Watertown and Pierre subsidies perhaps more than the federal Department of Transportation will allow:

Ultimately, the United States Department of Transportation makes the final decision for Watertown’s EAS contract. With the east and west route requiring an annual subsidy of $3,522,614 from Watertown and $4,638,832 from Pierre, Syhre said the federal DOT could consider the city’s selected proposal too expensive and have both Pierre and Watertown rebid in a two-week emergency window.

Syhre estimated the city’s chances of the federal DOT accepting the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Denver proposal at about 50 percent.

“We’re not guaranteed the DOT will accept this,” Syhre said [Crisler, 2018.04.14].

Watertown, Pierre, and other subsidized-flight cities had just better hope James Comey keeps distracting Donald Trump from noticing that he signed a budget bill fully funding Essential Air Service, which he said last year he wanted to eliminate. Hey, Tom Daschle, what was that you said about wanting to remind rural voters that Trump is bad for rural America?


  1. Rorschach 2018-04-17 17:49

    They better make sure the subsidies are only on round trip tickets, otherwise everyone will buy cheap one-way tickets and vacate SD for the more prosperous, tolerant and activity-rich city to the east.

  2. Jerry Roitsch 2018-04-17 19:04

    Welfare for the wealthy. Take a bus!

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