Starting in February, travelers will need to find another way to get from Dodge City to Kansas City.
Great Lakes Airlines announced this week that it would end direct air service from Dodge City and Garden City to Kansas City as of Feb. 10. However, the airline will still offer daily flights from Dodge City to Denver International Airport.
As you might expect, it’s all about the numbers.
Great Lakes is pulling out of the Kansas City market because the number of passengers has declined, largely because Kansas City offers fewer connecting flights than Denver, regional sales manager Kassi Mohlenkamp told the Globe on Wednesday.
“Once we were out of Kansas City, Denver became our primary hub,” she said. “With 850-plus departures and 17 airlines, it’s a little bit more viable for us.”
She said the airline will also end service from Fort Leonard Wood and Joplin, Mo., to Kansas City in February.
Essential Air Service
Dodge City offers flights to Kansas City and Denver through the federal Essential Air Service program, which allows communities that were previously served by commuter airlines to retain a certain level of air service. The government subsidizes the service through annual payments to airlines.
Every two years, the government reviews its contracts with Great Lakes for flights from Dodge City and Garden City to Kansas City and Denver.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation noted that the number of passengers flying from Dodge and Garden to Kansas City had dropped in recent years. Consequently, the department decided it would no longer subsidize air service from those cities to Kansas City.
After discussing the situation with local officials, Great Lakes came up with a new plan for continuing service to Kansas City. Under that plan, Dodge and Garden each got four round-trip flights to Denver and shared one flight to Kansas City each weekday.
Great Lakes said at the time it would offer service to Kansas City as long as the subsidy rate — $757 per flight — did not increase, said Dodge City Regional Airport Manager Mike Klein. But, he said, the airline could end the service at any time.
The number of passengers flying from western Kansas to Kansas City is declining, which prompted Great Lakes’ decision to end the Kansas City route in February.
Mohlenkamp said passenger numbers and geography, rather than the federal subsidy, drove the decision.
“It’s just better for us and the routing to keep all of our planes going through Denver,” she said.
Klein said Wednesday that local officials asked Great Lakes representatives to reconsider their decision during a Sept. 2 meeting at the airline’s headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyo.
“We just asked them if there was any possible to keep the Kansas City service. It would be a benefit to our communities,” he said. “But right now, the only communities in western Kansas going to Kansas City are Dodge and Garden. And once they pulled out of the two stations in Missouri, the economics just didn’t make much sense to continue Dodge and Garden service into Kansas City.”
Page 2 of 2 - The Dodge City airport reported more enplanements for the Denver route than for the Kansas City route this fall. The term refers to the number of people flying into or out of the airport.
The airport had 284 enplanements for the Denver route in September, 268 in October and 281 in November. By contrast, the airport had 66 enplanements for the Kansas City route in September, 47 in October and 61 in November.
The number of annual enplanements helps determine how much money cities receive through the Airport Improvement Program for airport upgrades. So if Dodge City’s number of enplanements drops below 2,400 a year, the city could lose its commercial air service, which could mean less federal money for airport upgrades.
Klein said he hoped the loss of the Kansas City route would boost the number of passengers going to Denver.
“We’ve got more connections out of the Denver airport,” he said. “So hopefully, this will be a positive impact on our enplanements.”