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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