Friday, June 13, 2014

No scheduled flights doesn’t mean Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport (KIFP) quiet

BULLHEAD CITY — As the Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport continues to work toward the restoration of scheduled airline service, the facility continues to be one of the busiest non-metropolitan passenger airports serving Arizona and Nevada.

Even without regularly scheduled service — yet — the airlines at Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport now operate non-stop and one-stop flights from a record 130 cities across the U.S. and Canada.

All jet service from Sun Country Airlines and Republic Airways resulted in 228,535 passengers using the airport in 2013, said Airport Director Jeremy Keating. A total of 1,642 air carrier operations averaged 4.5 flights per day. Sun Country’s 737-700s and -800s carry between 126 and 162 passengers, and Republic’s E190s hold 99 passengers, respectively, generating more passenger traffic than some airports with more flights but smaller aircraft.

Don Laughlin’s Riverside Resort and Casino has partnered with Sun Country for most of the airline’s 32-year history. Many of the flights originate from Sun Country’s base at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. In 2013 and 2014, the Riverside added 10 new flight markets, and Sun Country now brings in Laughlin and Bullhead City-bound passengers from more than 81 airports in 30 states.

Harrah’s Laughlin, a subsidiary of Caesars’ Entertainment, is part of a three-year contract under which Republic Airlines is operating five Embraer E190 aircraft to provide more than 1,500 flights annually. Two aircraft are based at Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport. Republic’s first local flight was in January 2013 and it operates in 99 markets to and from Laughlin. Republic has also established the Laughlin and Bullhead City area as a crew base, locally employing 37 pilots, flights attendants, mechanics and other personnel.

Over the years, Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport had scheduled service to one or more major hubs, including Los Angeles, Phoenix Sky Harbor and Salt Lake City International airports. Carriers included Morris Air (since acquired by Southwest Airlines), Reno Air (since acquired by American Airlines), Mesa Airlines (operating regional feeds for several different airlines) and Casino Express (operating as Air Laughlin).

Negotiations are underway with major and regional airlines to resume scheduled flights. Keating said the success of future service depends upon the support of the entire Tri-state area.

“Airline mergers, post-9/11 capacity cuts, fewer hubs, changing business models and many other criteria impact when and where airlines will fly,” Keating noted. “Air carriers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to service expansion. They cannot be expected to operate at a loss upon entering new markets. The successes of Sun Country and Republic, and their partners at the Riverside and Harrah’s, show why ours is a strong market.”

Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport was named the 2011 Arizona Airport of the Year. The airport is the main base for TriState CareFlight, a helicopter and fixed wing air ambulance company. Fixed base operations for general aviation, business aircraft, military and commercial flights are provided by Landmark Aviation. The airport had more than 18,000 total operations last year.


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