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Flight cuts leave southern Idaho's regional airports with few trips

A view of the runway and departure wing at the Magic Valley Regional Airport
Courtesy of the City of Twin Falls
Magic Valley Regional Airport

Planes will touch down less frequently at a few airports in southern Idaho after a regional airline cut back service.

Twin Falls announced Wednesday the city's United Express flight to Denver would be discontinued on November 30. It will only be six months after the daily flight, operated by SkyWest Airlines, started.

Bill Carberry, the manager of the Magic Valley Regional Airport in Twin Falls, said the change is disappointing, but he said it’s a sign of the struggles the airline industry is facing nationwide.

"Issues with their costs increasing, with fuel, there’s labor constraints, the industry is certainly looking to get more pilots —a lot of pilots retired," he said.

In a statement, SkyWest, based in St. George, Utah, said there wasn’t enough long-term demand for the service.

“We’re very disappointed that despite the strong passenger counts and support from communities across Magic Valley, SkyWest still felt that the new Denver connection was not sustainable,” said Brent Reinke, Twin Falls County Commissioner, in a news release.

There will just be one flight a day out of the Twin Falls airport starting in December — a SkyWest Delta Airlines trip to Salt Lake City. As of last year, there were three flights a day to Salt Lake. SkyWest also recently cut two out of three daily trips from Pocatello.

Shawn Barigar, the president and CEO of the Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, said there's a sense of frustration among the business community regarding the decline in daily flying opportunities out of the Magic Valley.

Companies like Chobani and Glanbia — with operations around the country and the world — rely on daily flights.

“It’s important that their teams be able to travel to those other locations," Barigar said. "Many of them also have customers who are coming here to do business with them.”

Last year, the federal government awarded Magic Valley Regional Airport a $900,000 grant to start the Denver flight.

The project description said the Twin Falls area "suffers from high airfares." The addition of a second carrier, on top of Delta, would improve competition and access, it said.

The city of Twin Falls, the county and local businesses also contributed roughly $150,000 in matching funds to market the service.

SkyWest has expressed interest in bringing back another Delta flight from Twin Falls to Salt Lake City in March of next year, Carberry said.

SkyWest said customers who booked a Twin Falls-Denver flight after Nov. 30 will be contacted to make alternate arrangements.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.