SkyWest's approachDec 14, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher
The decision by SkyWest airlines to make a bid for service at Riverton Regional Airport is a good sign for Fremont County - even if nothing comes of it.
SkyWest announced earlier this week that it would submit a proposal to become the sole air carrier at Riverton Regional, which is the only place in Fremont County to board a commercial flight. It is now an accepted fact of local air service life that any commercial carrier serving Riverton Regional will receive a minimum revenue guarantee from a coalition of local governments and the State of Wyoming. There's only enough money to provide that subsidy for one carrier, so it's either going to be a continuation of service from Denver Air Connection or a switch to SkyWest.
We'll leave it to the planners and negotiators to sift the details of the two proposals. Meanwhile, there is good news in receiving the proposals itself. Think how far we have traveled, figuratively, from two or three years ago, when it looked as if Fremont County might lose commercial air service altogether. Air boardings had plummeted as Great Lakes Airlines struggled to meet new federal requirements about cockpit personnel, and much of the local air market lost faith in the availability and reliability of a good service.
DAC initiated its creative, somewhat unorthodox service in 2016, and it has performed well -- apparently so well, in fact, at SkyWest, a proper "airline" in a way that Denver Air technically is not, now says it wants to serve Riverton Regional and has come to us with a proposal of how it might work.
To go from fearing loss of air service altogether - and Great Lakes did indeed, quit flying here - to having not one, but two carriers vying to serve our market is a fantastically welcome change of affairs.
It is based on sound economics, not charity. With the minimum revenue guarantee in place, the airlines now view Fremont County as a strong commercial market. Denver Air has set passenger records two months in a row. Other airlines certainly have noticed, and SkyWest has come calling on us, not the other way around.
We'll publish details of the current proposals soon. A friendly wager from the editor's chair is that Denver Air will find a way to emerge victorious for the 2018 air service year. But the larger, and more important, point is that there now is a choice.
Merry Christmas and a happy new year to Riverton Regional Airport, which, at long last, finally gets to be in position to call some shots.