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Airport saw 66 flights canceled in '11 by airline

Feb 15, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer Staff Writer

Passengers using Fremont County's sole commercial airport in 2011 experienced 66 flight cancellations by Great Lakes Airlines.

The largest number of cancellations at Riverton Regional Airport came in January, when 27 departures were scrubbed.

January also boasted the most flights at 182.

Airport manager Bill Urbigkit, who also is the City of Riverton's public services director, said "like in all partnerships, there's good times, and then there's rough spots," regarding the airport's relationship with Great Lakes.

The larger number of January flights -- compared with most months which range from the upper 80s to the low 100s -- was because of temporary service to Montana.

From November 2010 to February 2011, Great Lakes provided flights to Havre, Mont., and Lewistown, Mont., via the federal Essential Air Service program.

The EAS subsidizes airlines to fly to rural communities.

Great Lakes was using Riverton as a stop between those Montana airports and Denver.

Urbigkit said many of the scratched flights during those months could be attributed to vacant Montana-bound planes.

He said both locations were out of the way of popular destinations, and therefore did not generate much traffic for the airline.

At times, Urbigkit said, there were 30-passenger planes flying with only one occupant. The deal between the Montana locations and Great Lakes ended when the airports decided to look into other opportunities.

"It was not the wisest use of the taxpayers' dollars," he said.

Aside from the Montana-serving months, May had the largest number of cancellations at seven. September was the only month without a flight called off.

In 2010, there were 100 canceled flights.

Urbigkit also keeps records of late departures.

Flights that left six minutes or more after the scheduled time decreased in 2011 from the year before. Last year saw 337 flights leave six or more minutes late. There were 491 such late departures in 2010.

Again, large numbers of those late flights came during the months when there were flights to Montana.

However, out of the 90 flights in December, 53 were six minutes or more late for takeoff.

Currently, Great Lakes serves Riverton with three flights a day, with the exception of two on Sundays. The airline will likely up the number of flights to four per day in the summer months to accommodate increased travel.

No more than one of the daily flights now uses the 30-seat aircraft.