CHEYENNE – City leaders are moving forward with securing air service at Cheyenne Regional Airport just four days after Great Lakes Airlines announced its suspension.
The group is currently considering three options: an Allegiant Air twice-weekly flight to Las Vegas, which would cost an estimated $3.3 million in minimum guaranteed funds; a twice-weekly flight on Allegiant Air to Phoenix, costing $2.6 million a year; or a twice-daily route to Dallas/Fort Worth on SkyWest Airlines with a minimum revenue guarantee of roughly $4 million.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, a regional, low-cost airline, is known to have discontinued service to Las Vegas from Northern Colorado Regional Airport in 2012. But CRAFT, including Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, said data suggest the service was successful, and was only discontinued due to runway length and the necessity of a control tower.
“This is a proven option,” Orr said in a prepared statement. “I believe we could easily attract passengers from Colorado, just as they once attracted countless Cheyenne residents for that flight. Given the congestion and cost of parking at Denver International Airport, this could prove to be a winner for us.”
The news comes as Allegiant announced Friday it will be halting all flights to Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 26.
Orr said the twice-daily route to Dallas/Fort Worth would serve Cheyenne’s military, oil and gas, and wind-energy communities well, if selected.
CRAFT has 90 days to secure a replacement carrier or the Transportation Security Administration will de-federalize its checkpoint. Re-establishing the checkpoint could take more than six months.
“There are about 44,000 planes that fly in and out of Cheyenne, based on the last five-year average,” said CRAFT President Wendy Volk. “Great Lakes only provided roughly 300 round-trip flights. If we lose the checkpoints, we eliminate those other services as well.”
The group has until June 24 to decide whether to financially commit to air service.
“Closing that federal security checkpoint is like closing our interstate,” said Volk. “If we do nothing, it would be a loss of $850,000 in Federal Aviation Administration entitlement funds for maintenance and projects.”
In the coming weeks, CRAFT hopes to have a letter of intent to contract with an airline. Volk said CRAFT already has at least two offers, but must raise additional funds to meet minimum revenue guarantees.
Orr said she would entertain the idea of a city-funded subsidy if leaders could agree that air service is critical infrastructure for economic development.
“The decision we need to make now is if we are going to roll the dice and do whatever it takes,” she said.
Laramie County Commission Chairman Buck Holmes said no matter where additional public funding comes from, it is important to remember that it is all taxpayer money.
“If we spend the money on air service, we don’t have the option to do other things,” he said. “It is a case of how we want to allocate our funds and how much of our funds we want to allocate to air service.
“To come up with funds like that, we are going to have to do some scrambling.”
The same group that met Friday will meet again at 7 a.m. April 13 on the third floor of 310 W. 19th St. to continue discussions.