KEARNEY, NE — Denver Air Connection will be the next company to provide air service for the Kearney Regional Airport.

City Manager Mike Morgan announced the decision from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Friday. The two-year contract will begin on Nov. 1. Morgan says Denver Air Connection will operate 50-passenger regional jets with 12 nonstop roundtrip flights per week to Denver International Airport.

Denver Air Connection will feature bookings, connections and baggage transfers that will access the global networks of United Airlines and American Airlines. Flight schedules and prices will be announced soon. 

The Englewood, CO-based company replaces SkyWest, which issued a termination of service letter to Kearney in May citing a pilot shortage.  In June, the Kearney City Council unanimously voted to recommend the DOT select Denver Air Connection over bids from other companies, including a scaled-down bid from SkyWest. None of the bids included daily flights to Chicago, which is currently offered through SkyWest.

The DOT has the final say on the Kearney’s airline provider because of the city’s enrollment in the federal Essential Air Service program.

“The safety and reliability of Denver Air Connection demonstrated in several communities as part of the EAS program will ensure Kearney continues to offer outstanding air service,” Morgan said in a news release.

According to its website, Denver Air Connection currently offers flights out of 14 different airports, including Alliance and McCook.

The change comes as air travel popularity grows in Kearney. 78 percent of all seats were filled on the airport’s flights to Denver in April. Kearney registered over 25,000 enplanements last year, which is 10 percent of the airport’s total over 27 years.