Emplanement numbers at airports the size of Alpena's are like pieces of candy in a candy store to a small kid.
Once the magical 10,000 emplanements is reached at an airport over the course of a year, it triggers a $1 million subsidy from the federal government for use with airport projects and improvements.
While not concerned that the 10,000 is in jeopardy of being reached in Alpena this year, over the course of several months now emplanement numbers, compared to last year, have been down.
Why that should be concerning to everyone is that the SkyWest service agreement has not expired and the future of commercial service into and out of Alpena is up for bid again.
At least now, however, we have a better understanding of why some of those emplanement numbers are off. Up until recently, it was much more economical for travelers to take a slight detour and lose a little time from Detroit to Minneapolis, or vice versa, by connecting through Alpena than by flying direct. Once Delta officials became wise to the difference in pricing they implemented a provision in their contract with SkyWest that ended the pricing disparity.
Thus, the loss of emplanement numbers compared to last year has really little to do with a lack of confidence by local consumers in flying from Alpena via SkyWest, but rather has everything to do with the loophole now closed by Delta.
Still, from SkyWest's perspective, numbers are numbers. If the numbers aren't there, regardless of the reasons, neither is the potential profitability of the Alpena route.
As you read in today's newspaper, thankfully SkyWest officials believe in Alpena and have indicated their intention to bid on the Alpena route. SkyWest has done a great job of offering affordable and on-time flights to Minneapolis and Alpena and to lose them would have been an economic disaster for the community, and the region.