Great Lakes Aviation goes to great lengths to get people where they need to be, even if it's far from the big city. Flying as Great Lakes Airlines, the regional carrier transports passengers to more than 60 destinations in the western and midwestern US, mainly from Denver but also from markets such as Phoenix, Kansas City, and Ontario, California. It maintains code-sharing agreements with Frontier Airlines and United Airlines. (Code-sharing enables carriers to sell tickets on one another's flights and thus extend their networks.) Great Lakes operates a fleet of about 40 turboprop aircraft, consisting mostly of 19-passenger Beechcraft 1900Ds but also including 30-passenger Embraer Brasilia 120s.
Great Lakes receives subsidies for flying certain routes under a federal program designed to ensure that isolated communities don't lose access to airline transportation. Communities covered by the Essential Air Service (EAS) program account for more than half of the destinations served by Great Lakes, and EAS contracts account for about 50% of the company's sales. The company continues to seek out new EAS contracts, and from time to time it exits EAS markets, as permitted by the program, when service becomes unprofitable.
Scheduled passenger services, including those provided under EAS contracts, account for nearly all of Great Lakes' sales. The company also hauls cargo on its flights and provides ground services for other airlines. Due to adverse economic conditions, it saw a steep decline in passenger traffic, along with all other airlines, in 2008 and 2009. A drop in fuel prices in 2009 improved the company's operating income for that year.
Chairman Douglas Voss controls a 39% stake in Great Lakes; the credit unit of Hawker Beechcraft (formerly Raytheon Aircraft) owns 38%.