SCOTTBLUFF, Neb. – A financially strapped airline providing government-subsidized service to three cities in Nebraska and two in Kansas plans to end the service later this month, leaving those communities' air travelers without commercial flights.
PenAir notified the U.S. Transportation Department last week that service to Kearney, North Platte and Scottsbluff in Nebraska and to Dodge City and Liberal in Kansas will cease after Sunday. The information was first reported by an airline industry news site, ch-aviation.com .
The Anchorage, Alaska-based carrier filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan last month and said that in addition to closing down operations for Nebraska and Kansas, it also planned to close its hubs in Denver and Portland, Oregon.
PenAir officials said in a notice last week that they intended to continue the essential air service at the five communities until replacement carriers were selected and in place. But "a massive exodus" of the airline's pilots necessitated the quick action, PenAir officials said.
The airline has been deluged with complaints for months about flight delays and cancellations, which PenAir blamed on a shortage of planes and pilots.
The Western Nebraska Regional Airport Authority board in Scottsbluff decided in July to seek new bids for essential air service before the PenAir contact ran out. But airport manager Darwin Skelton said the airport will have to do without until a new provider can be secured.
"The best case scenario is we're looking at February, if not March," Skelton told the Scottsbluff Star-Herald . "We'll know who the carrier is by then, but we still have to wait until they can get moved in."