SkyWest ending ground operations

March 28, 2019

A Utah-based regional airline whose employees move bags and scan tickets for most commercial flights at Jackson Hole Airport is ending its contract with United and Delta airlines.

SkyWest Airlines employees were informed by management on Wednesday that their jobs would be running out come September after an internal decision to not renew the Jackson Hole Airport ground operations contract. SkyWest representatives would not consent to an interview, but confirmed the news in an emailed statement.

“SkyWest is continually reviewing ground handling contracts with its major partners,” SkyWest spokesman Layne Watson wrote in an email. “As a result of those continued evaluations, ground handling operations at the Jackson Hole Airport will transition to another entity selected by those partners later this year.”

United and Delta provide the bulk of the air service coming into Jackson Hole. In January and February, for instance, two-thirds of the 79,000 enplanements at the air strip in Grand Teton National Park were on United or Delta flights. Those passengers were aided by SkyWest employees who staffed ticketing counters, moved baggage to and from the terminal and cleaned out jets after they touched down.

SkyWest regional jets — which operate under the names Delta Connection, United Express and American Eagle — will continue to fly out of Jackson Hole, and the daily flight schedules are unaffected.

American and Frontier airlines also fly into Jackson Hole, but handle their ground operations in house or through other contractors.

It’s unclear how many SkyWest employees have the prospect of being out of a job at the end of summer, but Jackson Hole Airport Director Jim Elwood wished them the best.

“I’d like to thank the SkyWest employees for an incredible run of service,” Elwood said. “They’ve been fantastic ambassadors to our community. I suspect that many of those people will turn around to be employees under the next contract.”

SkyWest pledged to work with United and Delta to ensure Jackson Hole employees “receive various options, including priority interviews,” the statement said.

Elwood speculated that the ground-handling change stems from a “dramatic reduction” in the number of SkyWest-operated regional jet flights over the last few years. These smaller aircraft typically carry between 50 and 80 passengers. At the same time, he said, there has been a “significant increase” in mainline jet flights, meaning large aircraft directly operated by American, United and Delta.

Finding a new ground operations contractor falls entirely on Delta and United.

United Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Hiller wrote in an email that “we are fully prepared to transition to a new vendor.”