Wednesday, June 15, 2005

West Coast air service to Friedman is secured

Sun Valley now trying to establish nonstop service from Denver

Express Staff Writer

Senior representatives of Sun Valley Resort have secured nonstop air service between three West Coast cities and Hailey through next winter, without having to sign any guarantees that the routes will not lose money.

Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley director of marketing and public relations, said Tuesday that Seattle-based Horizon Air has committed to providing commercial flights between Friedman Memorial Airport and major airports in Seattle, Oakland and Los Angeles through early April 2006.

Sibbach and Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman established the agreement Thursday, June 9, during a meeting with senior Horizon officials in Seattle.

"It was a very productive meeting," Sibbach said.

The most significant agreement reached ensures Horizon will provide daily, round-trip service between Friedman and the two California cities—Oakland and Los Angeles—throughout the 2005-2006 ski season. The flights will commence Dec. 15 and will continue through April 2, 2006, Sibbach said.

The two California flights—which in recent years were provided only with a guarantee from the resort ensuring Horizon would not incur monetary losses—will be provided this winter without any such revenue guarantees. Sibbach said Sun Valley offered to sign revenue-guarantee contracts but Horizon decided to provide the service under a condition that the resort continues its aggressive campaign to publicize the routes.

"They expect us to market the flights and get the word out," he said.

In addition, Sibbach said, Horizon officials agreed to extend by two weeks its schedule for a summer route between Friedman and Los Angeles. That daily service will commence on June 19 and will run through Sept. 25. It had originally been set to terminate on Sept. 11.

As for service between Seattle and the Wood River Valley, Sibbach said Horizon will continue to offer one daily nonstop round trip—without seasonal interruptions—through next winter.

The winter flight schedules will be released next Sunday.

Sibbach said resort officials and the airline would "reassess" the Horizon schedule next April to determine what adjustments should be made.

During the same meeting with Horizon last week, Sibbach and Huffman also tried to negotiate establishing new nonstop winter service between Denver and Hailey, a prospect that has already been discussed with United Airlines.

Sibbach said Horizon is considering developing a partnership with Frontier Airlines to provide the service. However, he said, the service would not likely be approved to start before the 2006-2007 winter season.

Discussions with United—which came after a study indicated the route could be profitable in the first year of operation—have not yet "panned out into anything" but would continue, Sibbach said. United is considering offering the service through a partnership with SkyWest Airlines.

"The Horizon option, I'm more optimistic about that one than United," Sibbach said.

All of the discussions are happening amid concerns of the resort that a proposed move of Friedman to a location south of Hailey would have a negative effect on future air service and tourism. In a March survey of non-resident travelers at Friedman, 35 percent of 141 respondents indicated they would not make the trip if the airport were located further from the resort area.

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