Small Airports May Lose Essential Air Service Program

Cody – President Trump’s proposed budget cuts threatens winter airline service in northwest Wyoming. His budget eliminates the Essential Air Service Program, which subsidizes flights at the Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody eight months of the year. The budget cut could also threaten air service in other Wyoming and Montana communities.
Yellowstone’s Regional Airport needs no federal subsidies May through September. Yellowstone tourists and locals fill the flights.
But, the carrier that serves the airport in the winter gets almost a million dollars from the federal Essential Air Service program, in addition to ticket fares. That money guarantees two flights daily to a hub.
It’s not just the people who live in northwest Wyoming who depend on air service. Also at risk are the businesses that give jobs to the people who live here.
Forward Cody CEO James Klessens said, “Air service is a critical piece of the infrastructure of our business community.”
As head of the development firm, Klessens has helped bring several new businesses to the community.
He pointed out, “We have a number of businesses in this community that would have a difficult time justifying their existence in this community without good quality, regular daily air service. “
Klessens pointed to growing passenger numbers even during the winter. He says more than 40,000 people boarded jets in Cody in 2017. That’s a 20 % increase over the previous year,, and a record for the airport.
Klessens said, “The average enplanement ticket subsidy in Cody during the winter months is about $50, which is not really appreciable.”
The acting director of Cody Yellowstone Air Resources, and a member of the Yellowstone Airport Board, Bucky Hall, asked the Park County Commissioners to send a letter to Wyoming’s Congresswoman and Senators, asking them to help keep the Essential Air Service in the federal budget.
Hall explained, “It’s for rural airports mostly in the west when you’re further from hubs. That’s on the chopping block as are…everything’s at risk now in Washington with the President’s new budget request, et cetera. And so we’re reaching out to our delegation to make sure hopefully that program is maintained.”
The Commissioners asked Hall what would happen if the subsidy is lost.
Hall answered, “Worst case scenario we may be paying for air service in the winter, and we may not have the money to pay for it.”
The Commissioners voted to send the letter. The Essential Air Service program also subsidizes flights to Laramie, Wyoming.