By Shereen Siewert

Travelers from Central Wisconsin Airport will see flight changes in January as Delta eliminates routes to Detroit, but adds larger aircraft that accommodates first, comfort plus and economy seats.

CWA Director Brian Grefe said Delta is eliminating nationwide the 50-seat aircraft currently transporting passengers to both Detroit and Minneapolis airports. Starting next year, the airline will use CRJ-900 jets, one of the largest regional aircraft available. The 76-seat jet provides the airline with a lower trip cost, reducing crew costs amid a significant pilot shortage and offers a better travel experience, Grefe said.

The airline is not eliminating the Detroit route due to profitability in operating at CWA as they the transition from three, 50-seat flights to dual airports to two 76-seat flights to MSP, Grefe said.

“From Minneapolis you can get just about anywhere in the world,” Grefe said, adding that the jet upgrades are happening at all major airlines.

Plans also remain in the works for a low-cost airline to launch service from CWA. Grefe said the airport secured a grant to defer startup costs and officials there are continuing talks with three potential carriers. In March, the Marathon County Board of Supervisors approved a request by CWA to pledge up to $195,000 as a service development grant that would leverage $900,000 in federal funds to solidify service.

One of the three carriers is Sun Country Airlines, an American ultra-low-cost passenger and cargo airline and the eleventh largest in the U.S. by passengers carried. The destinations identified align well with Sun Country’s routes, he said.

Portage County, which owns 35 percent of the airport, will also contribute $105,000 in funding for the service.

United halted service to CWA in January for reasons similar to Delta’s changes, Grefe said.

During the shift, there will be about a one-month gap during which the 50-seat jets will remain the only option, with the new aircraft beginning service Jan. 6.

“Our total Delta capacity is actually going up,” he said. “And there’s a very good possibility for adding that new carrier.”