With the resumption of an early-morning flight departing Hays Regional Airport on Jan. 4, at least one assumption safely can be made.
“With an early morning flight, the plane is in Hays,” said Vice Mayor James Meier at last week’s commission meeting. “They’re not going to cancel that flight, because they have to get the plane out of Hays to do all the flights it needs to be doing.”
Improving cancellation rates, however, should only be a side benefit of having a 6:40 a.m. departure seven days a week. It is the intention of United/SkyWest and the city, which lobbied the carrier to reinstate the flight, to increase boarding numbers.
If the data and anecdotes gathered during community discussions and polls in the past year offer any clues, surpassing 10,000 boardings annually should not be a problem. Business and individual flyers regularly cited the lack of an early-morning flight as the primary reason their trips did not begin at Hays Regional Airport. We only can hope the flying public was telling the truth, as SkyWest will be looking for an uptick in numbers quickly.
City Manager Toby Dougherty said it’s not yet clear if it is a permanent schedule change or if it is being offered on a trial basis to see if ridership increases. Either way, he said, it’s important to increase passenger numbers.
The financial incentive to reach 10,000 boardings is the difference between receiving $1 million to finance airport operations or a mere $150,000. More importantly at this point is to convince SkyWest this area has enough of a passenger base to which it should pay attention.
The Hays airport is on SkyWest’s radar for now. It is up to local business and personal travelers to keep it there. Fly Hays.