Liberal looking to take flight again

LIBERAL, Kan. (KSNW) -- Travel options have been limited in Liberal and Dodge City since PenAir declared bankruptcy and stopped serving the towns earlier this month.

The Liberal city commission has taken a big step forward in getting flights out again.

For many in Liberal, flying out locally was worth the cost.

"We're going to pay a little bit more for our ticket," said Carrie Hensley, who flies out of Liberal's airport several times each year, "but the convenience of having it here I feel really outweighs that, and so it's disappointing to not have that option anymore."

This week, liberal's commission voted unanimously on one of six proposals offering different airlines to the city, ultimately choosing SkyWest Airlines.

"It checks all the boxes for our dream carrier," said Jeff Parsons, the city's Economic Development Director.

Compared to what PenAir offered, the planes will now seat 50 instead of 34, and there are morning and evening flights instead of two afternoon flights.

"Early morning departure from Liberal around 6:00 a.m.," said Parsons, "which gets you to Denver at 7:30, which allows you to connect to flights leaving Denver all the rest of the morning."

Parsons expects this to have a huge impact on ridership, which was about 1,900 passengers last year.

"They're estimating 15,000 passengers a year, and we think we can get to that without any problem."

One of those 15,000 will be Carrie Hensley.

"I prefer a morning flight, so I'm actually really excited that they're going to have that option."

There is one problem they'll need to address. This waiting room, which seats 10, is not going to be big enough to hold 50 passengers plus TSA.

What they'll have to do is push the exterior wall out farther to make more space. They can extend the waiting area out into part of the rental car area.

The U.S. Department of Transportation now has to approve the proposal and order an economic impact study.

Liberal expects to see flights again in January or February.

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