Great Lakes FILE

A flight crew loads baggage into a Great Lakes Airlines plane on the tarmac at Cheyenne Regional Airport March 25, 2016, in Cheyenne. Blaine McCartney/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Great Lakes Airlines suspended all turboprop flight operations at midnight Monday, to the surprise of airport officials and community members.

Cheyenne Regional Airport Director Tim Barth said he is still looking for more details, further suggesting the announcement came as a surprise to even airport executives.

While he determines what happened, those with a vested interest are left to react.

The Cheyenne-based airline announced on its website and Facebook page Monday evening that all future scheduled flights are canceled effective immediately. It was Cheyenne’s only air service carrier.

The company has not declared bankruptcy. According to the statement, it “will continue to operate certain segments of the business,” including support for Aerodynamics Inc. flights between Denver and South Dakota cities, which operate as Great Lakes Jet Express.

Randy Bruns, CEO of Cheyenne LEADS, the local economic development agency, said, “I think this was an announcement we expected sooner or later.”

Jim Klein, a retired business owner in Cheyenne, said he expects Cheyenne’s economy to be notably affected by the airline’s departure, but, like most, is awaiting details.

“I know there are a number of employees who will be disappointed to hear this news,” he said. “It’s always sad to see a part of our community go under.”

Recently, Cheyenne Regional Airport officials defended the airport’s contract with Great Lakes, suggesting losing the airline would mean hundreds of lost jobs and a significant loss in tax revenue.

Cheyenne Regional Airport supports around 1,000 local jobs and contributes $2 million in tax revenue, but it is still unknown how many of those jobs are through Great Lakes, and whether employees still have their jobs. It is likely, but not confirmed, that some local jobs will be lost as a result of the announcement.

The airport is currently in the process of trying to attract a large commercial airline while continuing an $18 million terminal restoration and reconstruction project. As Great Lakes suspends local turboprop operations, the airport is without any commercial air service for the time being.

Great Lakes officials have not yet responded to multiple requests for comment.

There were no Great Lakes employees at the airport’s terminal Tuesday, but one customer, Ashley James, was looking for a refund.

“I woke up to the news, and these tickets are not cheap,” she said. “I can’t say I’m surprised with the way things have been going for the airline, but just springing this on Cheyenne is unprofessional.”

Affected customers should contact their original booking source for a refund. If that was the Great Lakes website, email refunds@flygreatlakes.com for more information.

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