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AMERICAN AIRLINES – PHOENIX, ARIZONA NEW ROUTE RECRUITMENT (UPDATED August 30, 2021)
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the communities selected to receive a Small Community Air Service Development Grant. Helena was selected as one of 22 successful applicants out of a pool of 78 applications! The $1 Million Grant Helena applied for was supported by a local financial package valued at over $327,000. Those local funds were raised from community businesses, organizations. The $1 Million grant is the largest grant awarded to an airport in Montana under this program and is designed to provide a revenue guarantee and marketing funds to help secure new service between Helena and Phoenix. American Airlines previously provided a letter of support to this effort. The Air Service Grant Agreement was signed and returned to the U.S. Department of Transportation recently, so the grant funds are now in place. The airport is meeting with American Airlines on September 14, 15 to determine when American may begin this service as many things are continually changing in the travel industry so a firm start date has not yet been set. More on this will be announced as it develops……….
AIR SERVICE EXPANSION EFFORTS – WHAT IT TAKES TO LAND MORE AIRLINE SERVICE
Airport Officials along with a number of Helena community have visited with 10 different airlines to explore possible air service additions to serve Helena. Air service development if an ongoing process and the airport communicates with airlines on a regular basis to maintain contact and update airlines on possible opportunities at the Helena Airport.
In order for a small community to gain additional service in today’s airline industry, some basic elements must be considered:
- Affordable Cost to Operate – Operating a commercial airport in today’s myriad of regulatory and operational requirements is costly. Helena Regional Airport has diversified its revenue sources to include a number of non-aeronautical revenue sources. This is critical to ensure that the costs the airlines pay to use the airport fits their business model. Like it or not, the airlines are for-profit businesses. The cost per passenger at the Helena Airport is under the national industry average and one of the lowest of the commercial airports in Montana.
- Sustainable Market – Helena’s central location is well suited to serving a large amount of the state, however, Helena is surrounded by larger communities that provide larger markets, so the competition among airports is a factor you cannot ignore. While it is an asset to be the State capital, there are 4 other state capitals with airports that have NO air service.
- Revenue Guarantees and Incentives – Airlines are placing the burden to mitigate the risk of entering new markets on the airport and their communities. Many communities around the country including many in Montana have been required to provide revenue guarantees over $1 Million to ensure new service is financially successful during the startup phase. One crucial fact about providing revenue guarantees is that the Airport itself legally cannot provide these funds due to federal regulations. These funds must be provided by other entities such as the community businesses and other users, so many communities have conducted fundraising campaigns to secure these financial incentive packages. Helena has done this in the past and plans to do so again once an airline commits to interest in a new route.
- Capacity and Efficiency – Airlines cannot operate unless the airport facility is suited to meet their needs. This includes terminal facilities, jet bridges for boarding, and airfield infrastructure such as runways, taxiways, air traffic control, navigational aids, fire protection, snow removal, etc… Helena is fortunate to have spent considerable time and money to ensure that the facility can meet their requirements. The current terminal expansion project will ensure that adequate capacity exists to continue growing Helena’s air service opportunities. In the last 6 years prior to the COVID 19 pandemic, passenger traffic at the Helena Regional Airport grew 23%.
ARTICLES AND VIDEOS ON AIR SERVICE DEVELOPMENT
Boyd Group International’s Views on Regionalization of Air Service: https://rumble.com/vehp6p-bringing-air-access-to-small-communities.html
IT’S TIME TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT TO GET THE MONTANA REAL ID
May 3, 2023 will be here before you know it! Montana driver licenses do not meet the federal “REAL ID” standards. However, domestic travelers will not be required to meet those standards until May 3, 2023. Domestic travelers must have a new Montana REAL ID driver’s license or a passport for all air travel after the May 3, 2023 deadline. Don’t wait until the last minute, set up your account and online appointment at the DMV website, today. For updated information on the REAL ID, visit TSA’s website or https://mtrealid.gov/faqs/
Make sure you have all the proper documentation before your appointment, here.