Starting Jan. 8, Delta Airlines is turning over its service into Kalispell to Sky West. Using sleek regional jets, or “RJs,” Sky West will double the number of daily flights connecting the Flathead with Salt Lake City.
That’s good news for tourists and Flathead residents who won’t miss those mandatory 5:30 a.m. check-ins for Delta’s morning flight out. But the switch from Delta’s large 737s to Sky West’s sleek 50-seat RJs is troubling to Big Mountain Resort. And not only because the smaller jets will offer around 100 fewer total seats into Kalispell per day. Just a week after Delta announced it was dropping service to Kalispell, Missoula, Billings, Great Falls and Helena because the routes were not making the Atlanta-based carrier money, the airline launched new 737 service to Steamboat Springs, Colo.
“It seemed awfully fishy to us,” says Michael Moffitt, Big Mountain’s director of sales and marketing, who says Delta’s flights to Steamboat cost about half as much as a typical ticket into Kalispell’s Glacier Park International Airport. “Most are $200 or less,” says Moffitt. “How can they do that a few days after pulling out here?”
Then there’s the puzzling question of why Delta is continuing its service to Bozeman. Through Aug. 31 this year, Kalispell attracted 6,456 more air travelers than Bozeman. So why didn’t the closest airport to Big Sky Resort get cut?
The company won’t say. “We don’t give out the numbers or the percentages because it is competitive,” explains Delta spokesman Anthony Black.
Big Mountain’s Moffitt says Delta denied having any financial arrangement with Boyne USA Resorts, the owner of Big Sky.
“They said, ‘No, we don’t do that anymore.’ But there must be a reason why they’re pulling out of here,” says Moffitt.
Meanwhile, Delta employees at Glacier International have been instructed by Delta management not to speak with the media about the changeover to Sky West. As one Delta staffer explained: “We still have to listen to whatever daddy says.”