Brookings has new connection to Omaha

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

Brookings will now have access to cheaper flights with the launch of a new flight connection to Omaha.

“The community wanted to use Omaha as its access point. Omaha offers access to anywhere in the world at a much more reasonable price,” said Greg Stephens, president of Air Midwest, Inc.

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Brookings Municipal Airport announced the replacement of Great Lakes airline with Air Midwest’s Mesa Airlines.

The new provider is offering two flights to Omaha every weekday, one flight to Omaha Saturdays and Sundays, and one flight to Kansas City every weekday.

Under Mesa Airlines the number of flights available and the Beech 1900-D airplanes flying will remain the same. The change is where those flights and planes are going – Omaha instead of Minneapolis.

The lower cost of flights out of Omaha as compared to Minneapolis was the reason for the switch, said Mike Isaacs, airport manager of Brookings Municipal Airport.

“Everybody wants a ticket where it’s the least amount of money,” he said.

After the introductory rate of $49 one-way flights from Brookings to Omaha ends on Sept. 11, the flights will cost $158 round trip. Isaacs thinks patrons will pay this to catch a flight in Omaha.

“To get there round trip for $158 … a lot of times you’re going to save a lot more than that by flying out of Omaha,” Isaacs said.

By offering flights from Brookings to the less-expensive Omaha airport, Isaacs said he is hoping to draw people to his airport.

“We’re hoping this Omaha route will capture a significant increase (of people flying in and out of Brookings).”

He has set a goal with Mesa Airlines to see 10,000 people fly out of the airport annually within two years, he said.

Although at times the airport has serviced 5,000 people a year to Minneapolis, recently only 1,000 passengers have taken off from Brookings annually.

Robb Sexauer, president of Brookings’ Airport Club, said these low numbers and the compatibly low income were part of the reason for the switch.

“We needed to do something different, because we just weren’t getting people on the airplanes,” he said, adding that Brookings has been a subsidized airport, requesting funds from the city on a regular basis. He’s hoping that with this change eventually the airport will be able to stand alone.

“I’ve gotten a lot of communication with people positively saying that Omaha’s where we want to go,” he said.

That did seem to be what the community members at Friday’s ceremony were saying.

Joseph Oye, a local pilot and flight instructor, said he was pleased with the Omaha flight availability.

“I’m excited about the idea of lower fares out of Omaha. It’s so much more cost-effective,” he said.

Brookings AAA Travel agent Clayton Theobald said he felt the Omaha hub would help his business.

“It’ll be a much better operation with Omaha,” he said. “There are more options and availability, price-wise and schedule-wise,” he said.

Brookings resident Lan Santema said he would try the new Mesa Airlines service the next time he books a flight out of Omaha – which could be soon.

“I fly on business and leisure …. I go to Las Vegas a lot,” he said with a smile.

Brookings Mayor Scott Munsterman also had only good things to say about the change.

“We’re the only place in the state with a direct connection to Omaha, and that’s going to be a very coveted position,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see people’s reactions.”