jet and pierre people on tarmac

Pierre city leaders mingle with executives from SkyWest Airlines and United Express on April 3, 2019, as the first United/SkyWest flight departed with passengers for Denver.

Pierre will be getting back to two flights a day to Denver, city leaders said this week.

United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines in May cut the flights from 13 per week to one per day because the numbers had dropped off so much in the COVID-19 pandemic, which throttled the entire passenger airline industry.

Large airlines reported passenger numbers down as much as 95% in May.

Only 27 people flew out of Pierre in May, Pierre Regional Airport manager Cameron Howard told the Capital Journal on Friday.

Traveling internationally still is not recommended by experts, the Wall Street Journal reports.

While the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do not exactly recommend flying domestically because of COVID-19, its website also offers advice for minimizing risk while traveling, the Journal reported this week. The wide-open spaces states such as South Dakota and Colorado specialize in can help social distancing and a short flight is better than a long flight.

As of Monday, July 6, flights will depart Pierre at 9:10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for Denver. The early flight includes a stop in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, on the way and the arrives in Denver at 10:34 a.m., MDT.

The afternoon flight is non-stop and arrives in Denver at 4:24 p.m., taking into the account the hour time shift to MDT.

Each day a nonstop flight leaves Denver at 12:05 p.m. MDT. and arrives in Pierre at 2:30 p.m., CDT. The later flight departs Denver at 5:40 p.m., MDT, stops in Scottsbluff and arrives in Pierre at 9;13 p.m., CDT.

“People are back on airplanes and going to meetings or wherever they are going,” City Commissioner Jamie Huizenga said Tuesday at the Commission meeting in announcing the resumption of a second daily flight. “The airline industry has, hopefully, hit the bottom and we are getting things back up and rolling.”

Mayor Steve Harding said in a news release: “We expect that as the industry continues to recovery from the pandemic, we’ll see more positive adjustments to our schedule. For now, we’re really happy to again have two daily commercial flights out of central South Dakota.”

The airport is “disinfecting high-traffic areas multiple times a day,” according to the city’s news release. “Social distancing guidelines are to be followed throughout the airport.”

In the last six months of 2019, about 60 passengers were boarding flights each day in Pierre, or about 1,800 per month. But in 2020, the monthly count went from 1,297 in January and 1,281 in February, to 871 in March and 59 in April, then 27 in May, according to figures provided by Howard.

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