After slow July start, Denver Air boardings grew through August

Sep 18, 2016 From staff reports

Head count up 73 percent in second month

Denver Air Connection flew 468 passengers out of Riverton Regional Airport between July 1 and Aug. 27, almost double the business that Great Lakes Airlines did during that same period.

The new airline's business also appears to be growing. After having 171 departing passengers in July, there were 297 in August.

However, if the current performance of Denver Air and Great Lakes Airlines were to become the norm, the annual boardings would be roughly 3,700.

That's far fewer travelers than the 10,000-passenger benchmark that's usually needed to get $1 million in funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.

And, because Great Lakes boardings have dwindled to record lows this summer, the combined business would still just be on par with the number of passengers Great Lakes served in 2015.

After missing the 10,000-benchmark in 2014 after hitting the standard reliably for decades, Riverton has been fortunate in the last two years because Congress.

Bills introduced by Wyoming U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, have waived that requirement.

Another bill would be required in 2017 to continue the exemption and ensure the coveted federal ap-propriation at Riverton Regional, Fremont County's only commercial airport.

Local officials have stated repeatedly that they expect Denver Air's business to improve as it develops a reputation for reliability and once its flights begin receiving screening from the Transportation Security Administration next month.

In its first month serving Riverton with a 30-passenger jet, no Denver Air flights were cancelled, and each flight was an average of two minutes early.

Fremont County Commissioner Larry Allen, who serves as his board's liaison to the airport, said that Denver Air still faces a less surmountable obstacle: It's struggling to tap into the online market because its flights don't appear on travel websites.

Deals with those websites can often mean airlines paying millions of dollars for the online exposure, an option Denver Air --which currently only flies from Denver, Sheridan and Riverton -- considers to be cost prohibitive.

Great Lakes i listed on national travel sites. It continues to fly the 14-passenger Beech 1900 turboprop from Riverton to Denver, but only nine seats are being sold in order for the airline to skirt a federal regulation requiring two fully experienced pilots on each flight, rather than the one veteran and one junior officer permitted before 2014.

Great Lakes says conditions have improved in recent weeks and says it expects to man more flights will the experienced crew this fall, meaning more seats per flight could be sold.

Great Lakes has been plagued by cancellations and late flights in recent years, but its performance in those areas has improved considerably this year.

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