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For the week of  October 10 - 16, 2001


Improved air service options explored

Express Staff Writer

If you provide air service, they will come.

That is the gist of a new 115-page evaluation of Sun Valley’s airline market contracted by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Resort.

Last year, 134,680 passengers flew in and out of the Hailey airport, while over twice that flew in and out of each of three other mountain resort towns ¾ Aspen, Colo., Vail, Colo., and Jackson, Wyo. ¾ the report states. Each of those resort towns also had about twice as many seats available on commercial flights.

"There’re the numbers for showing more seats will generally attract more visitors," said Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carol Waller.

For Waller and Sun Valley Resort general manager Wally Huffman, more visitors equals a better local economy. The report, completed by Sixel, Boggs & Associates Consulting of Eugene, Ore., is meant to help with that.

Here’s what the consultants said area businesses should do:

  • Encourage Horizon Air to begin flying its turboprop planes nonstop between Hailey and Los Angeles and between Hailey and San Jose, Calif.

  • Encourage Great Plains Airlines, which has shown interest in flying a 32-passenger jet nonstop between Hailey and Los Angeles and between Hailey and San Jose.

  • Encourage American Airlines to fly a small jet on the Hailey-to-Los Angeles route.

  • Pursue United Express service to Denver, where there are excellent connections to eastern markets.

  • Ask Northwest Airlines for a connection between Hailey and Minneapolis.

  • Ask Big Sky Airlines for service between Hailey and Boise.

Currently, SkyWest Airlines flies nine times daily between Hailey and Salt Lake City, and Horizon flies once daily between Hailey and Seattle.

The report was finished before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast and the subsequent financial trouble in the airline industry.

"So this (project) might have to be on hold until airlines are in a better position to talk, which may take until the first of the year," Waller said.

When those talks begin, airlines will likely ask for a subsidy to cover any financial losses involved with flying the new routes.

"Other mountain resort communities are underwriting airline service at about a million bucks" a year, Waller said. And she expects that the Sun Valley area would need to spend the same amount. Both private and public money could be involved.

The report also states that the Hailey airport’s noise restrictions, high altitude and short runway make it difficult to improve air service.

The Blaine County Air Transportation Advisory Group, whose members include officials from the airport, city governments, chambers of commerce, Sun Valley Resort and private citizens, commissioned the report.

The group will probably meet in several weeks to review the report and decide what to do next, Waller said.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.