Sky West Vies for Air Service at Chamber Luncheon
Representatives of Sky West, the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT), and the Critical Air Service Team (CAST) discussed the future of commercial flights at the Sheridan County Airport during the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce luncheon today.
During last year’s budget session, legislators appropriated $15 million for the development of a statewide commercial air service capacity purchase agreement with one airline. In April, the WDOT Aeronautics Division chose to enter into negotiations with selected SkyWest Airlines to provide air service to Gillette, Riverton, Rock Springs, and Sheridan.
Dixie Johnson, chamber CEO and CAST board secretary, said negotiations are currently centered on cost forecasts, schedules, contract responsibilities, and memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with each community. CAST’s current contract with Key Lime Air for the Denver Air Connection (DAC) runs through January 2020.
SkyWest Managing Director of Marketing Development Greg Atkin pitched the strengths of his company, highlighting Sky West’s emphasis on connecting small communities with air travel hubs since the company was founded in 1972 in Utah.
“We’d like to think we have quite a bit of experience over the last 47 years,” Atkin said, “and have refined the recipe.”
Sky West is proposing two flights a day using 50-passenger jets. According to Atkins, Sky West already flies 43 percent of all air passengers in and out of Wyoming.
Atkins explained that Sky West partners with larger airlines, taking on the responsibility of representing those brands in smaller markets. Sky West would fulfill United Express flights between Sheridan and Denver and estimates that two-thirds of customers departing Sheridan will be traveling beyond Denver.
In every aspect, from booking to customer service, the experience should be seamless with United, Atkins said.
CAST Administrator Renee Obermueller said until the state is done negotiating and a contract is approved by the aeronautics commission, they can’t share any details.
Negotiations are expected to continue through June 30. Obermueller said CAST expects to make their decision by mid-July. Then, the group plans to share the details of the contract and hear from the public. Additionally, the city council and the county commission will also have to vote on the issue.