Folks arriving from Chicago could bring tourism dollars to Park County, according to local officials.
“I am excited about the prospect of having a weekly non-stop flight from Chicago to Cody,” said Claudia Wade, director of the Park County Travel Council.
The flights would run once per week from late June to mid-August. A 70-passenger regional jet would land in Cody Saturday and depart the following morning, said Bob Hooper, Yellowstone Regional Airport manager.
“It’s not for sure,” Hooper cautioned.
United approached Cody Yellowstone Air Improvement Resources (CYAIR) with the offer. It will be up to CYAIR board members to decide whether to accept the proposal. United will seek a minimum revenue guarantee, Hooper said.
CYAIR promotes commercial air service from Cody by raising money locally and from the state of Wyoming. A minimum revenue guarantee essentially pays for seats that are not filled on a commercial flight.
A minimum revenue guarantee falls under the Air Service Enhancement grant program from the Wyoming Department of Transportation State Aeronautics Division.
The division grants from 60 to 80 percent of the revenue guarantee, said Hank Coe, CYAIR chair. The remainder is raised locally.
Flights from Cody to Chicago could be a plus for Park County, Hooper said.
“The flight has the potential to do well,” he said.
“For several years the Wyoming Office of Tourism has been spending a lot of marketing money in Chicago, so Chicagoans are aware of Yellowstone Park and Wyoming,” Wade said.
“Chicago is also an international gateway city,” she said. “Park County is a partner in an organization called Rocky Mountain International, and one of the partner gateways is Chicago. This organization provides international travelers with travel itineraries that include Cody/Yellowstone Country — a perfect fit.”
“It was United that brought the idea up,” Coe said.
Under the proposal, United is asking for $160,000 for the eight flights, said Ray Lee, administrator for CYAIR.
However, CYAIR is hoping the flights will be 80 to 85 percent full, so they would only pay United $32,000 or $24,000 respectively, Lee said.
United’s Denver flight for the winter of 2012/13 was a minimum revenue guarantee contract of a little less than $400,000, but CYAIR had to raise only about $10,000 because the flights were nearly filled, Lee said.
On Dec. 19, CYAIR voted to proceed, and Lee said he believes they will have a contract with United within the next month, he said.
The Chicago connection should aid tourism in Park County, because Chicago is a major tourism connection, especially for visitors from abroad. Rather than booking multiple connections en route to Cody, tourists can fly from Europe to Chicago and then to Cody, where they can spend their money to support Park County’s economy, Lee said.
“I like having the Chicago flight arriving in Cody in late afternoon so travelers can make Chicago connections coming from Europe,” Wade said. “The flight will depart Cody Sunday morning, which would mean that most travelers will need to spend the night in Cody or Park County in order to catch the morning flight. I also like working with United Airlines in exploring enhanced air service in Park County.”
“I think it’s an opportunity for us to take air service to a new level,” Coe said.