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September 22, 2011 8:43 am

EDITORIAL: SkyWest stays, but effort to retain service must continue

Written by Don Amend

SkyWest Airlines may not abandon daily service to Salt Lake City this winter after all, thanks to a subsidy from the federal government.

SkyWest has been granted a subsidy of $352,000 per year for two years under the Essential Air Service program, a federal program that guarantees small airports two flights per day to a major airport.

With the subsidy in place, the airline would provide one flight daily between Cody and Salt Lake from Oct. 4 through May 31, approximately three-fourths of the year. During the summer months, SkyWest will provide two daily flights at its own risk without the subsidy.

The continuation of the daily flights is welcome news, but such a subsidy is not a permanent answer for Yellowstone Regional Airport. Government subsidies of all kinds are under fire as the nation battles government debt. An attempt to end the Essential Air Service program was one factor in  Congress’s failure to reauthorize funding for the FAA last month, a failure that forced a costly shutdown. It is questionable whether such a subsidy will be available two years from now, and it is possible Congress could end the program even sooner.

Given that reality, Sen. Hank Coe, chairman of CYAIR, is exactly right when he said that, while the continuation of SkyWest’s service is a positive development, Cody and Park County generally need to work to make the service worthwhile for SkyWest and wean the airline from the need for the subsidy.

It is worth noting that SkyWest indicated its intention to begin serving YRA with 50-passenger turbojets in January, replacing the 30-passenger turboprops currently in use. Replacing the cramped, noisy turboprops, from which passengers and/or luggage sometimes had to be left behind to allow the plane to fly into Cody, could make flying from YRA a more pleasant experience and attract more passengers.

In today’s economy, essential air travel is vital to the Cody/Powell area. We commend SkyWest for finding a way to provide winter service, and we applaud the efforts of the airport’s joint powers board and CYAIR to keep that service operating. We also hope the airline will continue to take steps to make flying in and out of Cody a positive experience.

In the end, though, keeping air service into Park County may well depend on our own efforts as a community to promote and use air travel into Yellowstone Regional Airport.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link September 22, 2011 3:46 pm posted by Salty Dawg

    There goes those hands out for more subsidies.RINO's are a hoot ain't they,it's all hunky dory when they want something,but don't let any Liberal ask for anything.

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