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Time for takeoff

United Express begins serving FD airport

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
United Express flights operated by SkyWest are now taking off at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport. The first flights arrived and departed on Monday morning.

Jet service has touched down again at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport.

On Monday, shortly before 11 a.m., the first United Express flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport landed in Fort Dodge carrying 11 passengers.

United Express, operated by SkyWest Airlines, officially took over service at the Fort Dodge airport on Monday, replacing Air Choice One, which served the airport since 2015 until its contract expired on Sunday.

The last time jets served the Fort Dodge airport was in late 2011 and early 2012, during the last months of Delta Air Lines’ presence in the community. That was also the last time that Fort Dodge passengers could make seamless connections to other flights at a larger airport.

At O’Hare, Fort Dodge passengers will be able to seamlessly transfer to United Airlines flights to the rest of the country and the world without rechecking their bags.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
The first United Express flight operated by SkyWest arrived at Fort Dodge Regional Airport on Monday morning.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” Fort Dodge Regional Airport Director of Aviation Rhonda Chambers said of the transition.

The airport hosted a small ribbon-cutting event with community leaders and the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance on Monday morning, celebrating the first arrival and departure with United Express.

Nine passengers boarded the airplane to head to O’Hare, which took off just after noon.

“The relationship that we’ve developed with SkyWest and United has been incredible,” Chambers said. “United will offer all frequent flyers their frequent flyer miles and all of the things United has to offer. It’s one-stop service to anywhere in the world out of Fort Dodge.”

Chambers announced in December that the contract for service at the airport had been awarded to United Express. It was a big move for the Fort Dodge airport.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
A ground controller directs the first United Express flight, operated by SkyWest, to arrive at Fort Dodge Regional Airport on Monday morning.

“For SkyWest and United, what they did here is no big deal,” Chambers said. “But what no one understands is the months and months of work that went into this transition and what had to happen.”

The airline will receive an annual subsidy of $3,071,656 to serve Fort Dodge from the Essential Air Service program, which was created to ensure that airlines continue to serve smaller communities.

This contract will be in effect until Feb. 29, 2024.

The airplanes United Express is using are 50-seat Bombardier CRJ-200 jets.

The airline is providing 12 roundtrips to Chicago each week — two on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and one each on Tuesday and Saturday.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Fort Dodge Regional Airport Director of Aviation Rhonda Chambers welcomes guests to the ribbon cutting of the new United Express by SkyWest service at the airport on Monday morning.

“We are so looking forward to our future relationship with United and SkyWest,” Chambers said.

Bringing jet service back to the airport is much bigger than just Fort Dodge and Webster County, Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich said.

“It’s really about creating a regional opportunity for people in a rural part of Iowa to have connectivity by just driving a few miles versus driving to a major metro to be able to connect to other parts of the world,” he said. “There’s so much value in that.”

The mayor added that it’s important for those in the community and in the region to use the service at the Fort Dodge airport — whether it’s for recreational traveling or business traveling.

“It has to be used,” he said. “We’ve got to show it’s valued and we value their investments here.”

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
A Fort Dodge Regional Airport worker sprays de-icer on the United Express operated by SkyWest airplane on Monday morning.

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