Lee Bird Field at North Platte Airport prepares for Pen Air

The countdown has begun. About two weeks until Pen Air replaces Great Lakes as air travel provider at Lee Bird Field.

North Platte Airport Manager Mike Sharkey said, "They were here at the chamber banquet on Thursday night and gave away eight tickets. But i's very evident they want to be part of our community."

Airport officials say the Pen Air transition has been smooth so far preparing for their first flight on November 1st.

"We did a lot of research when we were recruiting them and we checked their references and all the airport managers that I've talked to and all of the board members that I've talked to they give them very very high marks," said Sharkey.

Sharkey says the North Platte Airport is putting in a lot of effort into advertising their new relationship with Pen Air. They really want to grow customer confidence and reliable airfare.

"Our passenger traffic has deteriorated dramatically in the last three years with Great Lakes' pilot shortage problems. So the confidence in the air travel is at it's all time low probably. We have budgeted a considerable amount of money and we are working in partnership with Pen Air to develop a marketing strategy that would bring these travelers back," said Sharkey.

According to Sharkey, pre-bought ticket amounts are suffering, mainly because of customer skepticism.

"The advanced purchases are going slow but we kind of anticipated that. Like I said, It's going to take a lot of work for people to gain confidence in the air service again but Pen Air's been very proactive about doing discounts," said Sharkey.

Airport officials say marketing and advertising efforts began about a week ago using television, radio and some print ads.

They expect to continue advertising through the beginning of the year.