Friday, April 28, 2006

Winter Oakland flight proves its worth

Horizon Air to resume Los Angeles route in summer

Express Staff Writer

The winter Horizon Air flight between Hailey and Oakland, Calif., proved successful enough that Sun Valley Co. for the second year in a row didn't have to pay out minimum revenue guarantee funds.

"They made enough to cover what they (planned)," Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley director of marketing and public relations, said Tuesday.

In an agreement renewed last June between representatives of the Seattle-based carrier and Sun Valley Co., officials guaranteed that the airline would provide daily winter-season commercial flights between Friedman Memorial Airport and Oakland.

If the route didn't meet minimum revenue projections, Sun Valley Co., with financial assistance from the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, would cover the loss.

In previous years, minimum revenue guarantees applied to the Hailey-Los Angeles route, too, but last season only the Oakland route was subject to the guarantee.

On the Oakland route, there were 7,697 legs, or one-way tickets, sold, Sibbach said.

If every passenger flew round trip, half that number would represent visitors to the area. Horizon Air provides only leg information to Sun Valley Co., Sibbach said, so it's difficult to get exact visitor numbers.

The load factor, or percentage of seats filled on each leg, was up every month but one during the winter season.

Data for December 15-30, 2005, show the load factor at 64 percent. That's 1 percent more than the two-week period in December 2004, Sibbach said.

Figures for the month of January 2006 were up 4 percent from the previous January—49 percent compared with 45 percent.

The load factor for February rose 3 percent, from 57 percent last year to 60 percent this year.

Only March showed a decline in load factor. This year's percentage was 46 percent, while last year's was 53 percent.

"But the average ticket price was up, so it made the same amount of revenue," Sibbach said, adding that there are more factors in revenue than number of seats sold.

The Oakland route will not be in service this summer, said Jen McSkimming, spokesperson for Horizon Air.

The Los Angeles route will begin after the slack season. The dates will be released in May or June.

Horizon also flies a daily Hailey-Seattle route year-round, she added.

Sibbach said proposed flights between Friedman and Denver, either with Horizon or Denver-based Frontier Airlines, are still being considered.

"I'm not real optimistic about it happening next winter because of the availability of planes," Sibbach said. The Q400 aircraft used on that route are higher in demand than supply, he said.

Airport officials considered a Denver-Hailey route with United Airlines, but it was determined that the SkyWest planes they use are not a good match for Friedman Memorial Airport.

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