Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fly Sun Valley touts recent successes

Director says airfares are coming down

Express Staff Writer

    Fly Sun Valley Executive Director Carol Waller delivered encouraging news to the Sun Valley City Council on Thursday, saying that increased seat capacity into the region will help boost business.
    Waller said December 2013 enplanements were up 37 percent and seat capacity increased by 44 percent compared to December 2012. In January 2014, enplanements were up 26 percent, while seat capacity increased 17 percent compared to January 2013.
    The Fly Sun Valley Alliance—a nonprofit group that promotes air service to the Wood River Valley—recently negotiated a pair of successful air-service contracts with two new markets. On Dec. 12, the first United Airlines direct flight from San Francisco to Friedman Memorial Airport landed.  The flights are scheduled to continue in winter and summer. United later committed to seasonal, daily nonstop flights between Hailey and Denver.
    “With these added new air-service markets, there has been downward competition on airfare here,” Waller said. “That is great news for us—having this fare competition for us is very important in the long run.”

With these added new air service markets, there has been downward competition on airfare here.”
Carol Waller
Fly Sun Valley Alliance Executive Director

    Waller said the biggest factors in the increased seat capacity are the new flight from San Francisco and the expanded flight schedule offered by Alaska Airlines, which operates seasonal flights to Los Angeles and Seattle.
    “When you add seats, generally you get more enplanements,” Waller said. “For every single month, we’ve seen an increase.”
    With its expanded service, Alaska Airlines will now offer flights to Seattle and Los Angeles until the end of September, whereas the flight schedule used to end around Labor Day. There are also experimental weekend flights added into the schedule in October to bring more guests to this year’s Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree, scheduled for Oct. 15-19.
    Waller said the Fly Sun Valley Alliance is currently discussing contracts for fiscal year 2015 with United and Alaska Airlines, and hopes to have the contracts finalized in May.
    Fly Sun Valley Alliance Board President Eric Seder praised the City Council’s support for the organization.
    “You guys have really supported us when we needed it in terms of getting a long-term program together,” Seder said at the meeting. “Without the support you gave us, we wouldn’t have made it where we are. We probably won’t have to be coming here to beg for money on a yearly basis.”
    Waller said the organization will eventually look to add service to more markets, but for now is focused on making sure the two new routes are successful air markets.
    “We are very optimistic about our future going forward,” Waller said. “We’re very grateful to have so many valuable partnerships with the community and airlines.”

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