Posted: Jul 13, 2013 4:03 PM by Cody Proctor - MTN News
GREAT FALLS - Folks will no longer be able to fly commercially in and out of Lewistown in central Montana, as the Essential Air Service program ends at the Lewistown Municipal Airport on Monday.
The U.S. Department of Transportation stated last month that both Lewistown and Miles City will lose their EAS funding, saying the cost of providing the service became too expensive.
Airport manager Jerry Moline says having no flights will have an impact on Lewistown: "One of the sales points for bringing business into a small town like this is having dependable air service."
Moline says part of the reason behind the high cost was because previous airlines were based in Denver, flying up to 2,000 customers a year.
That number dropped at least 50% since the current contractor, Silver Airlines based in Billings, is only a couple hours away by car.
After next week, there will be five Montana airports in the EAS program, including Havre, Sidney, and Wolf Point.
Lewistown City Manager Kevin Myhre says that with just a few left, he has concerns about how new airline contracts will make the EAS plan work.
"I think it's going to become more difficult over the years to maintain the subsidies even for those five airports and eventually the way it's going, there may be no Essential Air Services in Montana," Myhre said.
Moline says the airport hasn't lost hope yet, however: "At this point, we haven't totally given up attracting another airline, but nothing definite at this point."