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CYAIR contemplates keeping SLC air service

Following SkyWest Airlines’ sudden announcement that it plans to pull its Salt Lake City flights from Cody, Yellowstone Regional Airport supporters are strategizing to keep Salt Lake City air service.

“We really got blind sided last Friday,” said Cody Yellowstone Air Improvement Resources Chairman and state senator Hank Coe.

However, James Klessens, CYAIR member and CEO/president of Forward Cody, said the group has to work with SkyWest and should not consider them the bad guys.

SkyWest cited lack of profit flying out of Cody and the price of fuel as its primary reasons for discontinuing its service after Sept. 6.

SkyWest is running United’s flights from Cody too, Coe said.

“I think they’re spread too thin,” Coe said.

For Salt Lake City flights, SkyWest is under contract to Delta Airlines, so the best strategy is meeting with Delta representatives, Coe said.

Both United and SkyWest fly at risk during the summer because planes are easily filled, but fall and winter passenger numbers lag.

To offset potential losses, United Airlines, making flights to Denver had a minimum revenue guarantee under the Air Service Enhancement grant program.

SkyWest did not.

Under the program, Wyoming Department of Transportation’s State Aeronautics Division covers 80 percent of the cost of the revenue guarantee, and the rest is matched locally.

For Oct. 1, 2010 through June 1, 2011, United is due $200,000. The local match would be $40,000. CYAIR is now negotiating with United for next winter, Coe said.

SkyWest could be offered an air enhancement grant, but Yellowstone Regional Airport Manager Bob Hooper said the Aeronautics Division’s funding is finite, and the agency may not be disposed to two revenue-guarantee contracts at one airport.

SkyWest has notified the U.S. Department of Transportation of its intentions to leave Cody, Hooper said.

SkyWest can’t continue operating its Salt Lake flights in Cody without covering the cost, but airline officials would be willing to discuss options such as Air Service Enhancement grant contracts, said Marissa Snow, SkyWest Airlines, corporate communications manager in a telephone interview.

“We’re always happy to speak with the officials in Cody,” Snow said.

The Department of Transportation could decide to put a hold or stay on SkyWest’s plans to vacate Cody, but, it has to analyze the market first. Hooper said he doesn’t know when the department would reach a decision.

Under Essential Air Service, an airline is required to offer two flights per day, six days per week throughout the year, Hooper said.

As part of the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act, essentially allowing airlines flexibility in choosing their markets and fare rates, Essential Air Service was included so small communities with airlines prior to deregulation could maintain a minimal level of airline service, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But Hooper said the department “does not care if there is service to Salt Lake City or not ... We could very well become a one airline town.”

The 30 passenger twin-turboprop Brasilia SkyWest uses weekdays may not be suitable for high-elevation take-offs, Hooper said.

So, if the plane has to bump five passengers to get off the ground, it is only flying with an approximate 83 percent load, and it loses revenue, Klessens said.

Klessens said he would like to see a 50-passenger regional jet making runs to Salt Lake City.

Coe said CYAIR should discuss Salt Lake City flights with Delta.

Claudia Wade, CYAIR member and director for Park County Travel Council, agreed.

“It’s not going to cost us much to have a conversation with Delta,” Wade said.

Still, the No. 1 priority is maintaining United flights to Denver, which is the fifth busiest airport in the United States, Coe said.

Although they did not set a date, CYAIR plans to meet in the near future to form a strategy to keep an airline flying to Salt Lake City. Also on the group’s agenda is educating the public of the economic merits of retaining commercial air service at Yellowstone Regional Airport.

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3 comments

  • posted by MLJ

    July 06, 2011 1:03 pm

    How about stop fighting customer actions and just add a flight to Billings?
    MLJ

  • posted by Melp

    July 06, 2011 6:28 am

    Forget about Skywest and their terrible service into Cody. Laughable, Coe says blind sided? Skywest has had bad customer service and connection service for a few years into Cody. Politician answer is to keep throwing money at bad service. How about another airline or better ground transportation into Billings?

  • posted by clipstein

    July 05, 2011 9:53 pm

    the only thing that blindsided you was your delusions....... grow up and do what is right for the people

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