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Denver Air debuts at MSP’s Terminal 1

Photo of Denver Air plan at Terminal 1 gateMSP Airport (MSP) welcomed a new Essential Air Service (EAS) airline – Denver Air Connection – on Monday, June 1.

Denver Air is flying between MSP and Thief River Falls, Minn., 12 times a week and succeeds Boutique Air, which has been flying to the city in northwestern Minnesota since 2016.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the two-year contract to Denver Air, which is operating out of Terminal 1, in February.

Following deregulation of the airline industry in 1978, the U.S. Department of Transportation created the Essential Air Service program to preserve service to smaller communities by subsidizing airlines that fly to these markets.

Denver Air, a subsidiary of Key Lime Air, operates out of Denver International Airport and serves smaller destinations in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming. For flights to Thief River Falls, it will use either a 50-seat Embraer EMB-145 or a 30-seat Dornier 328 Jet, which are both much larger than the eight-seat Pilatus PC 12 flown by Boutique.

Denver Air also has an interline agreement with United Airlines, which will allow passengers from Thief River Falls to check their bags all the way to their final destinations when transferring through MSP.

The new EAS airline is one sign of the slight increase in traffic in recent weeks at MSP. On Monday – the first day of Denver Air service to MSP ­– passenger numbers were down 87.56 percent from the same date a year ago.

In April, passenger numbers were down about 95 percent.