CHEYENNE – After a year of increased travel through Cheyenne Regional Airport, the airport’s relationship with SkyWest Airlines continues to look positive.
When flights kicked off last year, a minimum revenue guarantee of $2.145 million was required by SkyWest. At the Cheyenne City Council’s Finance Committee meeting Monday, Wendy Volk, president of the Cheyenne Regional Air Focus Team, announced the minimum revenue guarantee for this year will be $150,000 less at $1.995 million.
“I think we hit a home run,” Volk said.
SkyWest, which oversees the American Airlines service, runs one flight each day to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The air service came to Cheyenne with a minimum revenue guarantee to help mitigate any financial risks for the airline.
Airport Director Tim Barth said the lowered revenue guarantee for this year reflects the success of the Dallas flights.
“I think it’s indicative that the service is working,” Barth said.
Volk also said the lowered revenue guarantee shows that the business forecast in Cheyenne looks positive for the airline.
“I do think they know what our potential can be if we continue to build our momentum and spread awareness,” Volk said.
Last year, the money raised for the revenue guarantee was completely used by August, but SkyWest Airlines continued service at its own expense from August through November. SkyWest saw enough value here that they continued flights.
“It’s a give and take,” Volk said.
For the initial $2.1 million guarantee, CRAFT went to various stakeholders throughout the state, both public and private, to raise the funds. The funding for the new agreement will come from the city of Cheyenne, Laramie County, the Cheyenne-Laramie County Economic Development Joint Powers Board and the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
WYDOT has already approved $600,000 for the guarantee, the city and county are being asked for $624,000, and the Joint Powers Board will be asked to pay about $143,000. The municipalities were made aware of the costs during their budgeting process, so they had the opportunity to plan for that spending.
According to Volk, CRAFT is building a “long-term strategy” for what the minimum revenue guarantee will look like in the future. The hope is that those payments will continue to decline over the next three to five years.
In the meantime, she said the success of this air service makes Cheyenne more attractive for other airlines that might not require a minimum revenue guarantee.
“It’s a process, and I think we’re getting a good return on our investment,” Volk said.
Neither Volk nor Barth expected the flight to draw so many travelers in its first year. In 2017, just 1,700 passengers flew through Cheyenne Regional Airport. Over the past year, that number jumped to more than 31,000.
In addition to increased traffic, the airport has a new terminal, funded with sixth-penny sales tax revenue, and a gift shop is being opened there this week. Barth also said they hope to have a restaurant open within the next year.
Volk said Cheyenne Regional Airport is the fastest growing small airport in the country, and these flights will continue to benefit the community.
“I truly think this is going to be a way to support more tourism,” Volk said.