County airport adds third flight for summer

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP – The Houghton County Memorial Airport will be adding a third summer flight starting June 6.

On Sundays through Fridays, SkyWest Airlines will have a flight departing Chicago at 3:55 p.m. CDT?and arriving in Houghton at 6:14 p.m. EDT The return flight to Chicago leaves at 6:37 p.m. EDT and arrives in Chicago at 7 p.m. CDT.

The summer flights will last through Aug. 26. As with the existing daily flights, the third flight will use a 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet.

Airport Manager Dennis Hext said he had approached SkyWest about adding a third flight this summer for FinnFest USA?2013. SkyWest decided to add an extra flight not just for FinnFest, but for June, July and August. Hext said last year’s flights for those months were at about 80 percent capacity.

“That’s what’s drove the whole thing, and that’s because people use the airport,” Hext said.

If the numbers for the third flight are high enough, SkyWest may be convinced to make the third summer flight an annual addition, or make it year-round, Hext said.

“If there’s a demand, and SkyWest sees they can put in a third flight because we’re at 90 percent load all the time, then they’ll keep it in,” he said. “It’s going to be important for everyone to use the airport this summer to show them we can support three flights a day.”

In a statement, Mike Thompson, SkyWest Airlines vice president of market development, also urged people to use the airport.

“Every summer, there is an increase in the number of people who want to hike, bike, fish or just enjoy the Houghton/Hancock area, and we are pleased to add a third daily flight to meet that demand,” he said.

Hext said although the Mesaba, Northwest and Delta airlines were good airlines to work with, the relationship with SkyWest has been “exceptional.”

“SkyWest has been good to us so far, and we hope to continue that relationship with them for as long as it takes to build it up to three flights a day,” he said.