By BECKY KISER
SkyWest Airlines, which provides passenger service at the Hays Regional Airport, is bidding on passenger service at the Salina Regional Airport. Its proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation includes adding a flight that would benefit both Salina and Hays.
“It would be a swing flight from Chicago to Denver that would stop in Salina and Hays each way,” Hays City Manager Toby Dougherty told city commissioners Thursday night.
“One flight would leave Chicago at 10:40 a.m., land in Salina at 1 p.m., land in Hays at 2 p.m. and then turnaround and head to Denver. There would be a flight leaving Denver at 2:30 p.m. It would stop in Hays, it would stop in Salina, and then it would wind up in Chicago at 8 p.m.,” Dougherty explained.
“That would be the net effect of the change.” The two daily flights to Denver would remain “roughly the same schedule,” he added.
SkyWest has asked for community input and support of its proposal.
Dougherty has reached out to the Ellis County commission, Fort Hays State University, and HaysMed encouraging their support. The city has already received a letter of support from Eagle Communications, the parent company of Hays Post.
“Any letters we get we’ll add to the pack to send to the Department of Transportation.”
City commissioners were more than happy to unanimously agree to signing a letter of support.
“This is a great step forward,” said Commissioner Henry Schwaller. “People have been wanting flights to Kansas City. We’re going to have a flight to Chicago. That’s even better.” “Very exciting,” echoed Commissioner Sandy Jacobs.
“I think this is unbelievable news for us,” agreed Mayor Shaun Musil. “The people of Hays have loved SkyWest ever since we’ve had it but they keep asking for something going east. This is an opportunity that would surpass that.”
SkyWest flights currently go twice a day between Hays and the Denver International Airport where passengers can connect to flights across the country.
If DOT awards the contract to SkyWest, the additional flights would be initiated April 18, 2018, according to the airline. Dougherty anticipates a formal announcement from DOT about the contract in late December or early January.
Some Hays residents are already aware of the possible flights.
“Melissa Dixon (executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau) made the announcement Wednesday night during the Santa Claus Fly In at the airport,” Jacobs said. “There was a lot of people there for that event and they were really excited about it as well.”