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Parent Company To Liquidate Big Sky Airlines

Regional Carrier Ends East Coast Service

Two months ago, ANN's Paul Plack spoke with Big Sky Airlines President Fred DeLeeuw on the Aero News Special Feature. He was excited to be partnering with Delta on routes in the northeast.

Among its other routes, Big Sky would fly between the new Plattsburgh International Airport in upstate New York and Boston. Those flights were being dropped by CommuteAir, a regional partnered with Continental, and Big Sky was taking over the routes and buying the Beech 1900D turboprops used by CommuteAir.

Big Sky, In Better Times. Click Here To Listen



Fast-forward two months. On Wednesday, Big Sky informed the Department of Transportation it will drop 86 total daily east coast flights -- many subsidized by the DOT. The department's Essential Air Service program was set up to maintain flights that didn't pencil-out for the major airlines after deregulation in the '70s.

In an official statement, DeLeeuw blamed "...a combination of unusually bad weather, disappointing revenue and record high fuel prices." In its notice to DOT, the airline cited, "...enormous unsustainable financial losses" for the decision.

The move will cost 140 employees their jobs when the routes are dropped on January 7. But if ending such a large portion of its service wasn't bad enough... the really bad news for Big Sky is DOT will force the carrier to forfeit its more profitable Essential Air Service routes in the western US as a penalty for abandoning the routes in the east.

And that's a move Big Sky may not be able to survive.

On Friday, Big Sky owner MAIR Holdings announced it will liquidate the airline -- adding impetus to DeLeeuw's lament earlier this week, that Big Sky could be out of business within 60 days.

"This is a very sad day for Big Sky Airlines," Deleeuw told KTVQ-2 this week. "This is causing a lot of stress for our people. We could soon effectively go out of business entirely."

For the moment, Big Sky will continue operating the western EAS routes, but only until another airline steps in to take over. Deleeuw said he's been in contact with other possible carriers to take over the airline, but wouldn't provide details.

KTVQ spoke with Great Lakes Aviation, which has expressed interest in taking over Big Sky's routes in Montana. That airline's CEO reaffirmed Great Lakes is still very interested in Montana.



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