Want to fly to Eau Claire for Christmas?
Sun Country Airlines this week began advertising round trips between Eau Claire and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for less than $25.
The 95-mile trip will take 45 minutes.
A round trip departing Dec. 23 from MSP to Eau Claire with a return on Dec. 26 came to $23.70.
The Twin Cities-based carrier said in July that it was selected by the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide essential air service for Chippewa Valley Regional Airport in Eau Claire beginning in December.
The airport asked Sun Country to step in when SkyWest Airlines/United Express said several months ago that it would end essential air service at Chippewa Valley.
Sun Country will provide Eau Claire with four round trips weekly — two to MSP and two to Las Vegas, Orlando or Fort Myers, Fla. — based on seasonal demand. Sun Country will fly Boeing 737s on the Eau Claire routes, in contrast to regional carriers that use smaller jets on essential air service destinations.
The Transportation Department subsidizes essential air service to more than 100 smaller cities that commercial airlines wouldn't normally serve. For Eau Claire, the department waived the minimum frequency requirement for the essential air service, which requires a minimum of two daily flights, six days a week.
Airlines have been cutting back regional routes because of workforce shortages and because the routes are more costly to fly, especially with business travelers not fully back, experts say.
Sun Country, which focuses on leisure travelers as well as charter and cargo business, sees an opportunity for more essential air service, a spokeswoman said.
"We appreciate the enthusiasm of and partnership with the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport to connect the Chippewa Valley with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the 78 destinations we serve as well as to provide service to Las Vegas, Orlando and Fort Myers," Grant Whitney, Sun Country's chief revenue officer, said in a statement last month.