Airline service in St. Cloud may be a lost cause

Last May I wrote in this space that it was time for St. Cloud area air travelers to “put up or shut up” about airline service out of the city.

St. Cloud’s airport, which has a history of failed attempts at airline service, had just inaugurated SkyWest service to Chicago. The airline flies two round-trips a day under the United Express brand.

Officials used a pot of federal and local money to entice the airline to St. Cloud by way of a quarterly subsidy.

It hasn’t worked, the St. Cloud Times reports.

The airline is flying half-full airplanes while cashing the checks. But it’s still losing money and the end — if history is any guide — is near.

Mayor Dave Kleis said a meeting between him, Gov. Mark Dayton and United’s local operator, SkyWest Airlines, was scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Kleis said the group will discuss financing options. The daily flights to Chicago have been subsidized by $1.75 million in federal and local dollars since they started in May. Kleis says the money was used to make up for a shortfall in passengers. Under current projections he says that money will run out early next year.

“We’re asking SkyWest to absorb some of (the cost) until we can move toward better performance and self sufficiency,” he said.

As I indicated in the original post, it was possible to configure flights to beat the Minneapolis St. Paul fares to Chicago. But that’s no longer the case.

Booked in advance, a round-trip ticket on a flight to Chicago from St. Cloud runs $520. That’s almost $200 more than an identical flight from Minneapolis St. Paul.

And a flight on Friday from St. Cloud will cost you about $750. An identical flight from the Twin Cities is $482.

Update 12/24 2:21 p.m. – The airline will suspend service in April.