Subsidy under discussion to maintain commercial flights at Pocatello
POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) — After deciding to retire, Tami Wilde wanted to live in Pocatello, and Gate City Airport was a big factor in her decision.
“One of the reasons we chose to retire here was because there was an airport that took us to a hub that allowed us to get everywhere we needed to go,” Wilde said.
But with commercial travel cuts being discussed, Wilde fears he won’t be traveling as much.
“We’re starting to panic,” Wilde said. “We don’t want to leave. We live very happily here. I visit my family several times a year and they also come to see us. We need these flights.”
The Pocatello City Council should consider spending $800,000 on a grant to SkyWest.
The grant would help save the only round-trip flight from Pocatello Regional Airport to Salt Lake City.
Although the subsidy may be a burden on taxpayers, airport manager Alan Evans says no subsidy could have a bigger impact.
“If we were to lose this flight, we may lose a lot of federal funding for this airport,” Evans said.
Evans says the pandemic has played a role in reducing flights, but says a labor shortage is the biggest factor
“It’s really attributed to a lack of pilots in the system and it’s nationwide,” Evans said. “It’s not just a Pocatello problem.”
Evans believes that as the city continues to grow, the operation of the airport becomes even more important.
“It’s an economic driver to have a commercial service in your community,” Evans said. “There’s a lot of regional and community stuff going on here in Pocatello, and we think it’s viable.”
Pocatello native Bardel Bybee lives in Washington and says he loves being able to fly straight to his hometown.
“It’s huge,” Bybee said. “Rather than flying to Salt Lake from Portland and then having the added expense of renting a car or bothering a family member to travel to Salt Lake to pick us up. C is just huge.”
For Bybee and Wilde, they believe that eliminating the Skywest flight will end up hurting the city.
“There are so many other reasons why it should stay,” Bybee said. “Just the jobs that would be lost at the airport for one thing. I think it would be pretty myopic not to keep that available for the city of Pocatello.”
“It would be quite sad to see it discontinued,” Wilde said. “I think it would hurt a lot of people who live here in and around Pocatello.”
The question will be discussed Thursday at 6 p.m. during the regular meeting of the municipal council. The public is invited to attend.