Illinois News

SkyWest adjusts flight schedule; Quincy officials debate airport fire protection costs

Passengers get off the first SkyWest Airlines flight into Quincy on Dec. 1 on the way to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. SkyWest is adjusting its morning arrival-departure schedule at Quincy Regional Airport, moving up departure by 13 minutes. | H-W File Photo/Michael Kipley
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 2, 2018 10:00 pm Updated: Jan. 2, 2018 10:30 pm

QUINCY -- SkyWest Airlines will tweak its arrival-departure schedule at Quincy Regional Airport starting Monday, moving up its morning departure by 13 minutes.

Members of the Quincy Finance Committee heard details of the change Tuesday night while discussing the schedule for firefighters who man the airport fire station during those flights.

"They're going to have an earlier morning flight, which we see as a good thing for making connections at O'Hare" International Airport, said John "Skip" Bright, Quincy's director of administrative services.

A city memo indicates that the first flight of the day will arrive in Quincy at 7:25 a.m. Monday through Saturday and depart at 7:55 a.m. -- 13 minutes earlier than the previous schedule.

Quincy's evening arrival will be at 6:01 p.m., and the final arrival will be at 9:21 p.m. Times of departures and arrivals in Chicago, Quincy and Cape Girardeau, Mo., are available on the SkyWest and United Airlines booking sites.

Officials did not immediately know how many additional banks of flights the earlier arrival in O'Hare will make possible.

Marrisa Snow, SkyWest's director of corporate communications, said schedule changes will help improve connections through O'Hare.

"These are standard adjustments that ensure we're able to maintain ideal connect times for Quincy travelers," Snow said.

Quincy Fire Chief Joe Henning said the new schedule will require similar changes in scheduling for firefighters who must be at the airport's fire station at least 15 minutes before the arrival of a flight, during the plane's time on the ground, and for at least 15 minutes after a departure.

"We're bringing in two-man crews for up to two-hour shifts three times a day," Henning said.

The off-duty firefighters who provide the fire-and-rescue coverage volunteer to be put on the schedule. They are paid an average of $35.99 an hour, which is based on overtime wages for a 23-year firefighter.

The Finance Committee was asked to consider airport firefighter coverage by Alderman Jennifer Lepper, R-5. Lepper hopes the city can cut its costs from the projected $143,000 annual outlay that was factored into the city's budget.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires at least two firefighters with airline rescue training be on duty whenever a regularly scheduled plane with seating for 31 or more passengers arrives or departs from an airport. SkyWest is serving Quincy with 50-passenger Bombardier CRJ-200s

"Is there a solution for next year?" Lepper asked Tuesday.

Henning said the city would need to either hire more firefighters or reopen negotiations on the three-year contract with the union representing firefighters to seek changes. Henning said the city is operating with nine fewer firefighters and two fewer pumpers than when he became fire chief in 2009. Fire protection at the airport also must be provided by members of Firefighters Local 63.

"I'm not comfortable taking a fire station out of service to send it out to the airport" for each flight, Henning said.

He added that because of the time of shift changes at 7 a.m., crews would not be able to meet FAA requirements if they followed the city's contract language.

Lepper cast the only Finance Committee vote against recommending to the full Quincy City Council that additional funds be transferred to the airport budget to cover fire protection costs. Aldermen Tony Sassen, R-4, Richie Reis, D-6, and Jack Holtschlag, D-7, voted in favor of the motion.

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