Friday, August 15, 2008

Bus service from Boise?

Alliance steps up airline efforts

Express Staff Writer

As erratic fuel prices threaten airline service throughout the nation, Wood River Valley business and resort interests are busy trying to ensure uninterrupted service for the 2007-08 winter season.

At least one major disappointment—Frontier Airlines' decision not to inaugurate a new Denver-Hailey route now—seems to have energized the Fly Sun Valley Alliance to not wait for problems to develop before acting.

High on the list of goals of the business group is to raise between $150,000 and $200,000 in contributions to underwrite winter air service from Los Angeles by Horizon Air. This would be a standby fund in the event Horizon loses money on the service.

Carol Waller, a member of the alliance as well as executive director of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, said that between 16 percent and 20 percent of the travelers on that Horizon route are valley residents, while the remainder are visitors. The group is considering a new survey to update figures on local beneficiaries of the Los Angeles route.

Alliance members also agreed at its July meeting to develop a lobbying plan to persuade Idaho legislators to pass a local-option tax law benefiting transportation needs, including subsidies for air service. Potential revenue for all needs in Blaine County could total $3 million annually, according to estimates discussed by the alliance.

Board member Jack Sibbach, marketing director of Sun Valley Resort, agreed to study options for providing bus service between the valley and Boise. This would be for valley visitors that fly into and out of Boise during the 100-day winter season. Sibbach said one cost estimate for the service is $1,000 per day.

One proposal that was turned down was a tour operator's plan to charter airline jets to fly into Twin Falls on 10 Saturdays during the ski season. The $330,000 flight costs plus busing from Twin Falls was too expensive for the alliance. Also, data indicated visitors don't fly on Saturdays.

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