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Welcome United Express

Area residents must take advantage of new air service

Passenger jet service returned to Fort Dodge Regional Airport Monday morning when a United Express plane came in for a landing.

There hasn’t been passenger jet service in Fort Dodge since about 2012, during the last months of Delta Air Lines’ tenure in the community.

United Express, operated by Skywest Airlines Inc., is now flying 50-passenger Bombardier CJR-200 jets to and from Fort Dodge.

It is up to the rest of us to make sure that service stays at our local airport.

To do that, local people need to make an effort to use that airline and the airport for all their flight needs. If the community keeps the seats on those jets full, the airline will have lots of incentive to keep flying to and from our hometown.

There are some nice incentives for people to take advantage of this new air service. First, it eliminates the need to make long drives, or even worse, overnight stays, in order to catch a flight at a big airport in another town. And the parking at Fort Dodge Regional Airport is free.

Seamless connections to destinations all over the country and the world are another big advantage for travelers. The local flights will take people to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, where they can transfer to United Airlines flights going to more than 175 cities. Upon arriving at the Windy City, Fort Dodge passengers will just have to go to their next departure gate. There will be no need to hassle with checking bags in, because they will be automatically transferred. And all of this will be possible by buying one ticket.

This new travel opportunity was created because the Fort Dodge Regional Airport qualifies for the federal Essential Air Service program, which provides money to keep airlines flying to smaller communities. When the last Essential Air Service contract neared its Feb. 28 expiration, the U.S. Department of Transportation sought proposals from airlines interested in serving Fort Dodge. United Express submitted a proposal, which was endorsed by the Fort Dodge Regional Airport Commission. The Department of Transportation subsequently picked that airline, and will give it about $3 million a year to serve our city.

If we as a community want to keep that level of air service, we have to use it. So the next time you want to fly, pick Fort Dodge Regional Airport and United Express.

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