Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chico, California: Air service here may be a thing of the past (Editorial)

The airport sits at the north end of Chico and could be considered rather isolated unless you are among those with reason to frequent the place.

There are still residents who don’t know Chico has an airport, as well as those who know but don’t care.

The recent survey by the Chico Chamber of Commerce and the Airline Attraction and Feasibility Committee showed mixed feelings about the airport and air services.

Generally regarded as a regional asset and a convenience to travelers, the airport has lost favor over recent years because of the dependability of commercial airline services.

Even before SkyWest Airlines pulled out of Chico last December, travelers were choosing other ways to leave the area.

That pull-out sparked a flurry of activities, from talk among city and business leaders about what to do next, to surveys about needs.

A ton of work was done by the chamber and the city-appointed committee, which yielded some surprising results. Kudos to the chamber and committee for that money-saving effort.

As hit-and-miss as the service was, mostly impacted by San Francisco weather and airport congestion there, now we have none and we are forced to drive elsewhere. City and business leaders say they’d like to see service return, but don’t know if it ever will.

Many travelers have been using Sacramento for decades, and don’t seem unhappy with what they’re getting there, despite the mileage.

We don’t want to weigh in as to whether Chico needs air service. The airlines will make that determination. But it says something about the economy — and local travelers — if Chico remains without the air service it has enjoyed for decades.

The problem is that airlines won’t trust the traveler here without some financial guarantee, which likely won’t happen. With planes getting bigger and flying getting costlier, airlines are being careful to ensure profitability.

The departure of air service hasn’t meant the collapse of Chico’s airport. All kinds of activities, from military practice to private-plane landings and tie-downs, occur now. There’s a car rental place still active at the terminal. A variety of cargo planes continue to use the airport, and the tower crew remains for now.

Chico will still be Chico without commercial airliners, and we may just have to get used to catching planes somewhere else. 


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