11 / 3
      12 / 2
      6 / -5

      Infrequent flights frustrating to Sawyer flyers

      L'Anse resident Judy Klaus flies frequently out of Sawyer International Airport.

      "Twenty-four times a year," said the loyal customer of Sawyer and Delta Airlines.

      Fliers like Klaus are on the decline, according Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch. "We've seen a decrease in ridership," said Erbisch.

      Erbisch reports that in 2010, Sawyer received 53 percent of all commercial airline business in Upper Michigan. That figure dropped to 36 percent in the first half of this year. Sawyer has seen over 21,000 less passengers over the first eight months of this year compared to the same period in 2011.

      Why the decrease? Erbisch says the economy is one factor.

      "The schedule that the airlines have is definitely playing into this as well," he added.

      Since December 2011, three 50-passenger jets have been leaving Sawyer, six or seven days a week.

      American Eagle flies to Chicago O'Hare at 7:30 a.m., and Delta operates flights to Detroit at 6:25 a.m. and 5:17 p.m.

      American dropped from three flights to one in September 2011. Delta had as many as five daily flights in the middle of 2011, including two to Minneapolis-Saint Paul.

      "It'd be more conducive to have another flight, mid-morning," Erbisch said. "We feel that was very well received in the past when we had that."

      Travel agent Marcia Dionne would especially like to see the return of Delta's flight to the Twin Cities.

      "That would help going to the West Coast substantially," commented Dionne.

      A Delta spokesperson said, "We constantly review service between markets in an effort to determine what, if any, changes will be made. That said, the primary driver for all service is passenger demand and profitability."

      American Airlines said, "We do take a continuous look at the markets we serve and make changes based on the demand." They added, "We have no plans to do anything different in Marquette in the foreseeable future."

      The infrequent flights frustrate fliers and officials because they report the demand is high.

      "It's rare that you have an empty seat next to you," Klaus said.

      Erbisch agreed, "Our passenger loads have been quite high for both of the airlines, so they're booking up their airplanes very quickly which is a very positive sign."

      Marquette resident Scott Krah flies about six times a year, for business and pleasure.

      "A lot of times, the flights that you want are full," he said while getting ready to fly to North Carolina for a business trip. "They don't seem to have enough flights coming into Marquette so we have to go out of Escanaba or Green Bay, Appleton."

      Krah said he also chooses those airports when flights out of Sawyer are priced higher.

      On Friday, Upper Michigan's Source will look at why Sawyer fares are often higher and the impact that it is having on local fliers.