Options always makes life better. Since last Friday, Sept. 27, United Airlines through Sky West, at Pierre Regional Airport now receives flights from District of Columbia area airports for government employees on official business.
“This is not necessarily gonna affect very many people in Pierre,” City Commissioner Jamie Huizenga said. “But one of the issues we had is where Pierre sits in the middle of South Dakota with federal employees coming and going from DC and other parts of the country, they fly under a government contract and up until this point Pierre has not been included as an option to fly in and out of here with the rates.”
The “rates” are a General Services Administration contract through United to allow for government employees on official business to fly, though not directly, to Pierre.
The GSA is an independent agency of the US designed to help manage and support basic functioning of government agencies. In short, logistics.
According to Mike Isaacs, Pierre Regional Airport’s manager, the city hired a consultant. The consultant was able to broker a deal between United and the airport to add onto an existing contract between United and the government.
The next open bidding for contracts does not begin until fiscal 2021, according to Isaacs. What this means, in the meantime, is GSA flights are no longer only relegated to “both coasts.”
According to Isaacs, there was no cost to taxpayers.
Before the flights, government employees had to fly into either Rapid City or Sioux Falls, rent a vehicle and hit the pavement for a two- to four-hour drive, depending on which metropolis they landed in.
While it may not be the most efficient way to travel to Pierre, options are still an improvement.
The time it would take to fly from DC to Pierre should take a little more than six hours, but the reality of the situation is flights from DC through United, because every flight is not direct and must pass through Denver, CO, for a layover, increasing the flight times to roughly nine hours, according to United Airlines’ website.
In contrast, a flight from DC to Rapid City, is around five hours. The subsequent road trip takes a little more than two and a half hours, according to Google’s maps.
Technically, it might be quicker to opt for the multi-faceted vehicle adventure, but there are other factors to consider.
“Weather,” Isaacs said. “It is a factor.” It is. If the roads are closed due to inclimate weather, the direct approach would be worlds more efficient, and safer.
Isaacs points out, it is not just military and representatives who could benefit. With access to a large amount of tribal business done out of the vicinity of Pierre, it makes sense.