Friday, December 22, 2017

Cheyenne Regional Airport (KCYS) looks to state for help attracting new airline

CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne Airport Board voted unanimously Thursday to apply for $580,000 in state money to help draw a new airline to the community.

Cheyenne Regional Airport Director Tim Barth said following the board meeting that he and other airport officials are currently in negotiations with airlines to bring them to Cheyenne and hope to be able to announce one before the final grant application is due next year.

He added that possible destinations under discussion include Las Vegas, Dallas and Phoenix.

Laramie County Commissioner Amber Ash said in a later interview that options had been narrowed to two airlines.

If approved for the grant, which is administered by the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission, Cheyenne airport officials said they hoped to combine it with $200,000 in federal money and additional money from the city of Cheyenne and Laramie County to create a $1.5 million revenue guarantee for a prospective airline.

Ash and Mayor Marian Orr said they couldn’t guarantee support for any request until a formal proposal with an airline is put forward.

But Ash said she hoped her fellow commissioners would be enthusiastic about a chance to secure flights to cities other than Denver.

“I would think that the commission would support something like that,” she said. “But until votes happen, you never know.”

In general, the agreements known as “minimum revenue guarantees” help an airline avoid losing too much money when it takes a chance on a new market by using outside money to cover losses.

If an airline breaks even or makes a profit on its own, the money is not used.

Airport officials declined to comment on what airlines were under consideration. Barth said the airport does not reveal the names of airlines with which it negotiates because releasing that information could hurt both the airline and airport with “undue speculation.”

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle filed a public records request Thursday morning seeking details of any airlines that may have been contacted by airport officials.

Airport counsel John Patton said he would review the request and provide an answer as to whether the records were available in accordance with Wyoming Public Records Act provisions.

The last air service enhancement grant the Cheyenne airport received went to fund a minimum services agreement with American Eagle, airport deputy director of aviation Jim Schell said.

A $1.4 million guaranteed revenue grant approved in July 2010 for American Eagle was used up in its first year in Cheyenne, according to previous WTE reporting.

The Wyoming Aeronautics Commission approved an additional $850,000 revenue guarantee grant in March 2011 that was combined with $150,000 from the Greater Cheyenne Foundation, according to previous reporting.

American Eagle ended its flights from Cheyenne to Dallas in the spring of 2012.

The airport is under pressure to draw new air service options as construction of a new terminal continues. A new terminal and related projects costing $18 million, partially funded by $6.3 million in sixth-penny sales tax money, are scheduled to be complete sometime in 2018.

Cheyenne-based Great Lakes Airlines provides one flight a week from Cheyenne to Denver International Airport, down from eight such flights it used to make, according to previous reporting.

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