Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Discount program deserves a chance

Fly Sun Valley Alliance has come up with a local discount card program that it projects would bring in enough money to build a healthy fund to underwrite commercial air service to the area.

Airlines that fly to seasonal destinations such as Sun Valley demand guarantees that even if they fly with a large percentage of empty seats, they will realize enough revenue to cover their costs.

Thus, the names "minimum revenue guarantees" or "MRGs" are used to refer to the airline subsidies that Sun Valley's competitors in other states provide.

The law prohibits Idaho cities or counties from directly subsidizing airlines. Thus, Fly Sun Valley Alliance has had to look for legal ways to generate MRGs.

They've asked Sun Valley and Ketchum for a total of $100,000, or $50,000 each, to jumpstart a local discount-card program. Fly Sun Valley Alliance would sell $150 cards that would entitle the owner to significant discounts on local goods and services.

The organization says the one-time seed money would create a long-term MRG program.

The need for MRGs is unquestionable.

Airlines are not adventurous businesses, and Sun Valley's remote location makes it more expensive to get to than the average destination. The need for aircraft also rises and falls steeply with the seasons, which makes scheduling difficult.

MRGs help smooth the way for air service. They are key to the health of the local economy. More people on planes means that more cash registers will ring.

The cities should join forces with Fly Sun Valley Alliance and give the discount-card program—and the local economy—a fighting chance to stay on the radars of commercial airlines.

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