Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Horizon Air to offer flights to Boise this winter

Daily California flights to resume; Denver flights sought

Express Staff Writer

Seattle-based Horizon Air will offer nonstop flights between Hailey's Friedman Memorial Airport and Boise this winter.

The new Boise air service will commence on Thursday, Dec. 15, and will terminate on April 2, 2006, the end of the peak ski season. During that period, Horizon will offer one flight per day from Hailey to Boise every day except Saturday, and one flight per day from Boise to Hailey every day except Sunday. The flights will take approximately 40 minutes.

Jen McSkimming, Horizon media relations manager, said the decision not to operate both flights seven days a week was based on the limited number of aircraft available. The service will give travelers more flexibility in getting to the Sun Valley area during the upcoming winter, she said.

Carol Waller, executive director of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, welcomed the news of the new service.

"Any new air service is great for us," Waller said. "I'm glad Horizon decided to do this. It's just one more way for people to get to Sun Valley."

The dates for the new service between Hailey and Boise coincide with those for Horizon's seasonal winter service to two major California ski markets—Oakland and Los Angeles. Pursuant to a deal struck earlier this year between Horizon Air and Sun Valley Resort, Horizon from Dec. 15 to April 2, 2006, will offer daily, round-trip service between Friedman and the two cities.

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

"On a handshake, we promised them we would market it like there was money on the line," said Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley director of marketing and public relations.

To that end, Sun Valley Resort, with the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber, is distributing 100,000 postcards advertising the California flights, as well ongoing daily nonstop service to and from Seattle. The Chamber is consistently working on other ways to promote the California flights.

In addition, Sibbach said, the resort is spending approximately $50,000 on newspaper advertising in Southern California, and will also advertise the flights in ski-related magazines and at ski shows.

Adding to the service from the West Coast and Boise, Utah-based SkyWest Airlines this winter will offer 12 daily round-trip flights between Hailey and Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, Sun Valley is still trying to establish new nonstop winter service between Denver and Hailey. Sibbach said negotiations with Horizon have been promising but have not yet yielded a deal. Talks have also taken place with SkyWest and United Airlines.

Sun Valley would also like to establish a second daily round-trip route between Hailey and Seattle but has been unable to do so, Sibbach said. One problem with expanding service to Hailey, he said, is stiff competition from other small-market cities in the West for a limited number of commercial airplanes.

However, McSkimming said Monday that Horizon managers have decided to offer some additional service between Hailey and Seattle this winter, from Dec. 15 through April 2. On Saturdays, an extra nonstop flight from Seattle to Hailey will be offered, and on Sundays Horizon will operate an extra nonstop flight from Hailey to Seattle.

The Denver service, Sibbach noted, would primarily serve as a convenient link between Sun Valley and the vast skier market on the East Coast.

The negotiations to bring more flights into Friedman are happening as the airport's governing board is planning to eventually close the site and build a new, larger airport south of Bellevue.

Sibbach said he believes that if the airport is relocated, the Wood River Valley community would almost certainly have to follow in the footsteps of several other mountain resort communities and provide substantial minimum-revenue guarantees to be ensured regular service during peak tourism periods.

"I think we're going to have to do some sort of minimum revenue guarantee to get more flights here," he said. "I would say 'definitely' if the airport is moved."

Seasonal Flights

Horizon Air's daily nonstop flights between Hailey and two California cities, Los Angeles and Oakland, will resume on Dec. 15. The current schedule is:

· Depart Hailey (SUN) for Los Angeles at 11:05 a.m., arriving at LAX at 12:25 p.m. Depart Los Angeles for Hailey at 1:05 p.m., arriving at 4:25 p.m.

· Depart Hailey for Oakland at 2:40 p.m., arriving at 3:35 p.m. Depart Oakland for Hailey at 4:05 p.m., arriving at 7:05 p.m.

Flights to and from Boise will also commence on Dec. 15. The schedule is:

·  Depart Hailey for Boise at 4:55 p.m., arriving at 5:35 p.m. (Sunday through Friday only). Depart Boise for Hailey at 1:30 p.m., arriving at 2:10 p.m. (Monday through Saturday only).

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