Natrona County Airport Connection to Salt Lake City in Trouble
According to a letter by Glenn Januska, director of the Casper/Natrona County International Airport, COVID-19 and its variants have caused a drop in demand for air service at the airport and as such, flights to Salt Lake City on Delta, which are operated by SkyWest Airlines, are at risk of being suspended.
Januska said there are usually two daily round trip flights made to Salt Lake City, however at the beginning of Oct., that dropped down to one flight and is in danger of dropping off altogether.
While they have been working with the airline and the Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics staff, Januska said they will most likely need a minimum revenue guarantee (MRG), which is additional financial support from the state and county provided to airports, in order to maintain daily flights to Salt Lake City.
For the Natrona County Airport that would involve, according to Januska, $755,032 over a six month period, 40% from the state and 60% from the county, from November to April, subject to change and what the Natrona County Commission decides at their meeting on Tuesday, with portions possibly decided on a monthly basis.
Januska said other airports in Wyoming, like those in Jackson and Sheridan, use MRG on a yearly basis to stay financially afloat, which is something the Natrona County Airport has not needed to rely on until now.
Recently, Januska said that many flights going to Salt Lake City have been at around 55% to 60% capacity, when they are usually around 80%, and they are also not including as many business passengers, who tend to pay more than regular travelers.
People are required to wear masks while on flights and in the Natrona County Airport terminal, however there is currently no vaccine requirement, which Januska said would need to be implemented either by airlines or the federal government.
Januska said he does not know how many of the 750 employees who work at the airport are vaccinated, with only 30 of whom work for the airport while the rest work for other services in that area.
COVID-19 cases in the U.S., Utah, and Wyoming have all started to see varying levels of decline in the past few weeks, as vaccination numbers continue to increase.
At the same time, air travel in the U.S. has picked back up since the lows of last year but not quite to pre-COVID levels.
The Transportation Security Administration checkpoint travel numbers show 2,100,167 travelers on Oct. 3, compared to 900,911 at the same time last year, though still lower than 2,542,118 in 2019.