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Editorial: Big Sky dive

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The news about the grounding of Big Sky Airlines at Cape Girardeau Regional Airport have many second-guessing city leadership. The airline began passenger services Nov. 18. One month later, the airline announced it would shut down all service in the eastern half of the country, citing heavy losses and bad weather that interrupted its schedule and caused numerous delays.

Should the city have been able to see the writing on the wall?

Airport director Bruce Loy said he and the airport advisory board "went through 30 days of grueling research of what we wanted." He said Big Sky looked like a good prospect because it had been in business 25 years. He said the board was aware that Big Sky was selling off Masaba Air Lines and that Big Sky was getting smaller.

"The information we had was that they had $100 million to support this service," Loy said. "What you can't predict is how management's going to perform, and in this particular scenario, they didn't."

Loy argues that Cape Girardeau's flights to Cincinnati are not the reason the company spiraled. The Cape Girardeau airport was averaging 7.33 passengers per flight, which was up from 2006 totals of 7.04.

Again, Cape Girardeau finds itself without an airline. Now is a good time to re-examine what Cape Girardeau needs.

There have been complaints about taking flights to Cincinnati instead of St. Louis to connect with other flights. It's not uncommon for airlines to send a person the wrong direction for connector flights. But Southeast Missouri common sense questions whether its prudent to fly to Cincinnati to get to Denver.

The good news is that the airline, according to Loy, only gets federal subsidy reimbursements on flights that took place.

Loy doesn't make any promises on the next airline. He's been in the airline operations business since 1977 and has never had an airline cancel after a month before. Airlines, especially small ones, are in difficult times right now. Cape Girardeau will be taking a gamble on virtually any airline that agrees to come here.

Our hope is that the city will learn from past failures and make the best decision possible for everyone who uses the Cape Girardeau airport.

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So the SEMissourian is still giving the city a pass on the Blue Sky debacle.

If the airport management failed to detect the problems with Blue Sky after "30 days of grueling research", I suspect that the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport's management didn't perform in this particular scenario.

Let's see if there is any accountability in this so-called "conservative" part of the country.

-- Posted by Ike on Thu, Jan 3, 2008, at 8:19 AM

If $100 million was availabel for the service here, perhaps the airport authority should consider suing for breech of contract. There had to be some indication to the carrier that business was shaky when they entered into the deal.

-- Posted by logger on Thu, Jan 3, 2008, at 11:04 AM

Be hard to judge the board without seeing what they reviewed before making their choice. I doubt that Big Sky was as forthcoming and clear on their financial condition as they could have been or there would not have been such a rapid change in our service.

If I recall correctly, the other airline the provided service was suddenly having regular equipment problems, which in my years of flying experience meant that the plane did not have enough passengers to pay for the flight. So lets skip this flight and put them on the later one in hopes of increasing the passenger load.

Good article in Wednesday USA Today about airline subsidies with non-other than Big Sky.

-- Posted by John Baker on Thu, Jan 3, 2008, at 8:56 PM

The contract wasn't with the local airport authority. It was with the federal government. The money awarded in the contract was federal money. The feds might be able to sue, however if Big Sky goes out of business (which looks likely), you can't get blood from a turnip.

I was never a fan of the decision to go with Big Sky... but before people start naming people and mistakes (Ike), you might want to get your own details checked first. The airline wasn't BlueSky. It was Big Sky.

-- Posted by SEMissouri70 on Thu, Jan 3, 2008, at 9:48 PM

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