Local Air Service Task Force urged to develop revenue guarantee partnerships for reliable flights

(Riverton, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Air Service Enhancement Task Force was advised Thursday to use Riverton’s past flight history to promote increased commercial service to the airport. The task force was also advised that community buy-in to provide financial support for an airline would be necessary.

State Senator Hank Coe of Cody, himself a pilot, said Riverton’s main runway was built to accommodate Boeing 737 aircraft and that the airport used to board over 30,000 passengers a year. “The history is there,” he said. “If you want air service, it’s about partnerships. You’ll have to partner, step up to the plate and tell the airline we’ll help you to be successful financially.”

Cooper addressed three lawmakers in the room, St. Sens. Eli Bebout and Hank Coe, and St. Rep. David Miller during Thursday's meeting.

Cooper addressed three lawmakers in the room, St. Sens. Eli Bebout and Hank Coe, and St. Rep. David Miller during Thursday’s meeting.

Coe, and the Executive Director of the Jackson Hole Air Improvement Resources group, Kari Cooper, came to Riverton Thursday afternoon after meeting in Rock Springs on Wednesday, also on air service enhancement issues.

Coe and Cooper each gave a history of how their respective communities came together and provided airlines with revenue guarantees to provide reliable commercial service.

Both efforts have been successful, with Cody having direct non-stop jet flights to Denver and Salt Lake City, and once a week service during the summer to and from Chicago.

The Jackson Hole Airport has direct service from major hubs in Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houson, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Washington D.C., New York City, and Atlanta. The airport is served by United, Delta, American, Frontier, Skywest, and Republic Airlines.

Missy White of Lander, the chair of the local air service committee, said her group is working with Wyoming Aeronautics to see how the air service at Riverton Regional can be improved. White noted that unreliable air service, especially since last November, has resulted in a leakage of 78 percent of air travelers from Fremont County. “That means that out of 100 tickets sold to Fremont County travelers, only 22 are flying out of Riverton,” she said. That low number endangers the minimum threshold of 10,000 enplanements a year, which could result in the loss of $1-million in annual subsidy from the Federal Aviation Administration for upkeep and improvements at the airport.

White said she is confident that if Riverton can regain reliable air service, passenger traffic will return.

Coe said he thought the community could support two daily round-trips to Denver with a 50 passenger regional jet.