Idaho lawmakers are looking at ways to perk up air travel within the state as flights have been pulled back – or even eliminated – in recent years.
Getting from one end of the state to the other by air has become significantly harder over the years, which lawmakers say has stunted economic growth. They say communities with fewer travel options are less attractive to new businesses, or those looking to relocate.
For example, the Lewiston airport lost its direct flights to Boise two years ago after Horizon Air said there weren’t enough passengers buying tickets. Flights to Boise from Pocatello and Idaho Falls via Horizon were also discontinued in 2006 and 2010 respectively.
So, a group of state lawmakers has hired a consultant to figure out how to lure airlines back, or get them to increase existing flights.
Jeffrey Hartz, a project manager from Mead & Hunt, told the committee Wednesday that there would need to be a financial incentive for the airlines to make any plan work.
“It could be a minimum revenue guarantee, it could be a capacity purchase type of agreement like the state of Wyoming has done. It could be more direct subsidy type of aspects,” Hartz said.
Essentially, Wyoming pays an airline to run flights out of regional airports. The latest data from two years ago shows Wyoming paid nearly $3.5 million, while the six local airports chipped in another $3.7 million to subsidize them.
The consultant will be working on the plan over the next three months.
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