Competition is fierce to get airlines flying in and out of smaller communities. It’s especially tough to get direct flights from places like Kalispell to big cities like Chicago or Los Angeles. In the Flathead a non-profit group called Airline Enhancement and Retention Outreach, or AERO, is following in the footsteps of several other small communities to raise funds to bring in new routes. Chairman of AERO says it’s called a Minimum Revenue Guarantee or MRG.
“It’s designed to take the financial risk out for the airlines, again, to try to get them to try a new route,” Johannsen said. He is also part of the Flathead County Economic Development Authority.
“The better connected you are through air service, the more economic growth is available. So, a business that may be thinking about relocating here because of the quality of life, one of the real important factors that they look at is air service, and how easily can they get to where they need to go to conduct business,” Johannsen said.
He said the markets on the top of AEROs list include Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Chicago, and he’s talking about flights in the winter. During the busy summer season there are direct flights from Kalispell to Atlanta and Chicago. Year-round there are twice weekly non-stop flights to Las Vegas, daily to Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Denver.
Johannsen was involved in getting a direct flight between the Flathead and San Francisco several years ago.
“That was a flight that went through one summer. Unfortunately, United decided not to continue the flight, it seemed to do pretty well, but, the revenue numbers just weren’t there for them,” Johannsen said there is risk for AERO, but they’re hoping to find consistent support from the community, and an air service that will be able to stand on its own.
The MRG is a guarantee; they only have to dip into it if the airline is not generating revenue on the route.
AERO aims to raise $250,000 by May.