Air service subsidies in other resorts

mammothairportnight2.jpgPart of the new Business Improvement District assessment in Mammoth Lakes will pay for some subsidy of air service. It’s a subject with lots of push and pull on both sides. Mammoth Lakes Tourism Director John Urdi pointed us in the direction of a news story from Vail about the Eagle County Airport. Subsidies are not uncommon for ski resorts.

The Vail Daily News reported on how things work at Eagle County Regional Airport. The story highlights the importance of air service for second homeowners and for business in general. According to the Vail Daily story, “Most airports have to offer airlines what’s called a minimum revenue guarantee before the airlines will consider adding service to the market.” The story says this holds true particularly for mountain airports which usually have limitations in what type of plane can land and take off, high altitude air density, terrain obstacles and weight restrictions.

For Mammoth, the Ski Area has funded most of the air service subsides over time with help from the Town and County during fall and summer months. For those who think this is a bad investment, the Vail story says otherwise. The report describes a local Vail alliance dedicated to raising money to subsidize air service to the Eagle County Airport. It’s called a negotiated minimum revenue guarantee for the airline. If airlines make as much as the subsidy, the community keeps the subsidy.

While Mammoth’s air subsidies have raised some controversy and resentment, other resorts seem to have more cohesive community support – like Vail and also Jackson Hole, Wyoming. According to the Vail Daily News, the Jackson Hole Air Improvement Resources Board has been able to build a successful flight service program over the years. Now, fewer than 20% of the flights this winter are subsidized.

But small communities rarely attract air service without subsidies. Plus, the air service world is mostly merging. Twelve years ago, the nation flew ten major airlines. Now, there are four that dominate the market. This gives smaller markets less appeal.

Officials agree that no airline will fly to a resort community without economic incentives. So, it’s a community decision. Of course, the resort flights also mean locals nearby have an air service alternative to get in and out of the Eastern Sierra.

 

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slowpoke
slowpoke
7 years ago

I have waiting for someone to bring this up for a long time. Airport jobs in Bishop, more jobs in Mammoth. Too bad it will never happen

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

If air service needs a subsidy to survive then it shouldn’t exist. Just because other resorts do it does not mean it’s right for Mammoth. The fact that an industry (airline) must be subsidized in order to operate shows there is no market for this type of economic activity. Throwing… Read more »

Observer
Observer
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve

LAX and SFO flights have guarantees, but with snow on the mountain the airlines do not receive subsidies for these flights. Local governments have no seat at the table when guarantees and subsidy contracts with the airlines are negotiated and executed. Year round service to Bishop to these markets may… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Lets examine that statement. US 395 requires a subsidy of taxpayer money to exist. Federal and state excise taxes on fuels only fund about 50% of the total costs of building and maintaining roads. The remainder comes from general fund tax money in the form of state and Federal grants,… Read more »

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

You make a good point, but what you have mentioned (sea ports, airports, dams, water systems or electric utilities) is not the same as air service. The last time I checked, air service for 100 people a day from LA and SF was not essential. How do I know this,… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve

There isn’t a country in the world where the full cost of providing electric, gas and water utilities to residential users is paid for in full by the users. In every case everywhere in the world a combination of higher rates for commercial users (even the electrical rates I pay… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Are you equally opposed to the Digital 395 project which is bringing high speed internet access to the eastside through tremendous government support? Not to mention the many other advancements we take for granted that wouldn’t survive if left only to local economic support. Such is life in a rural… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago

Bishop would be the logical place for a good regional airport. It has better navigation aids, a longer primary runway, two additional runways for days when winds make the primary runway tough to land on and, importantly, is about 3000 feet lower in elevation, making it easier for aircraft to… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Shine

Interesting. I never flew passengers, just cargo so I never considered the lack of facilities for passengers or regs about fire crews. We only had to worry about whether or not there were compatible insturment approaches and predicted weather. In any event, all of the shortcomings would be addressed in… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
7 years ago

DT, I’ve been saying and writing the same things that you’ve said for years. I’m glad an actual aviator is saying them. You can speak with much more veracity about aviation issues than I ever could. And I also think that Inyo and Mono county should merge and pool resources… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

There are probably a dozen or more small lightly populated counties in this state that would benefit from merging into fewer larger ones with more aggregate resources at their disposal. It would require an act of the State Legislature to do so i believe.

Shine
Shine
7 years ago

To be fair, one must note that LADWP only gave Inyo permanent easement at BIH in 2011. This was major roadblock in past.

Don
Don
7 years ago

Just a quiet observation. “Combining smaller Counties for their mutual benefit”, perhaps Mono and Inyo Counties? I believe smaller Counties and communities, working together, collaboratively and representing the interests of their constituents, perhaps through RCRC. In smaller Counties, the elected representatives are, I believe, closer to the people.

MajorTom
MajorTom
7 years ago
Reply to  Don

Amen to that Don. I like Inyo County just the way it is. I don’t think our northern neighbors would get the desert mindset of Inyo County or that Inyo County would benefit from more of the SoCal culture of Mammoth (although the rest of Mono County doesn’t seem so… Read more »

Observer
Observer
7 years ago

Unstated is that the airport for commercial air service to Vail, the Eagle County Airport, is located 40 minutes away. Farther down slope, resulting in fewer issues with terrain, density altitude, weight restrictions, and bad weather. Bishop Airport, not Mammoth-Yosemite Airport, would be the equivalent to the Eagle County Airport… Read more »

J. Ritter
J. Ritter
7 years ago

Here is the big difference — both Vail (Eagle) and Jackson airports are reliable. And when the weather in those places prevents landing, the nearest alternate airports (Denver and Idaho Falls, respectively) are approximately a 2 hour drive from the resort. In contrast, the Mammoth airport is located too close… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago

All forms of transportation are subsidized by taxpayer money. Road taxes collected at the gas pump pay for only 50% of the total cost to maintain our streets and highways. The remainder comes from general tax revenues. Same for ports and airports. One of the hard core requirements for economic… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
7 years ago

All true. But the crux is from this, “…the public fund necessary transportation infrastructure…” How much air service is really necessary for the public? Given that nearly one and a half million people ski MMSA every year and the usual figure for “enplanement” (whatever that means) is between fifteen and… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

All four years since 09 have been on the tails of the biggest economic downturn any of us have experienced. Add to that two relatively dry winters in a row… Do you really think that the snapshot of TOT and sales tax for those years is adequate to make an… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago

One other note. The TOT for last fiscal year ended up coming in $660,000 higher than projected.
BK

Steve
Steve
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Credit social media NOT MLTs King George and his Klan.

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

“…TOT higher than projected …” Basically so what? Was the TOT higher than 2009? Was it higher than 2005? If the airport is so essential — why hasn’t it proved to be an important part of our economy. Nobody know’s how much the airport contributes to our economy. They take… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

There are some figures on numbers of passengers compared to the past and estimates of money spent in town as a result. I’ll see what I can get.
Benett

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

I’ve see estimates of how much each passenger spends in town. They are not reliable figures. Those estimates are based on what other passengers to other airports spend in other states. For MMH, nobody is even sure how many passengers even go to Mammoth Lakes. All those estimates are just… Read more »

Pedro
Pedro
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Thanks for the drinks Mammoth! I talked my way into first class on one empty flight out of town.

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
7 years ago

“the importance of air service for second homeowners and for business in general” This says it all. Use the promise of air service to sell fractional ownership condominium hotels. And you and I pay for it even though the air service provided really isn’t directly useful to the average person… Read more »