Jan 23, 2013 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterFewer passengers boarded commercial airline flights at Riverton Regional Airport last year compared to 2011.
Riverton public services director Bill Urbigkit told the airport board Friday that Riverton Regional enplaned about 1,200 fewer passengers. In 2011, 14,587 passengers boarded a flight at the airport, while 13,375 passengers were counted in 2012.
The figure is still well above the 10,000 annual passengers required to obtain federal funding for airport operations and maintenance.
Riverton Regional's high point in passenger boardings was more than 18,000 in the 1990s. Boardings dropped sharply following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 but rebounded later in the decade.
Both Urbigkit and airport division manager Paul Griffin agreed the economy could have been a major factor in last year's passenger decline. Connected to that, Urbigkit said travelers often choose to drive if a family is involved, as opposed to paying more for several plane tickets.
He said people in Wyoming are willing to driving long distances unless it's for a business trip.
Fares on Great Lakes Airlines to and from Riverton are relatively high compared to flights on larger planes from bigger airports.
Great Lakes uses the 19-seat Beech 1900 plane for most of its flights to Riverton, with the 30-passenger Brasilia 120 also flying a limited schedule.
Urbigkit keeps in close contact with airport officials in Wyoming, and he said several other airports also are seeing smaller enplanement numbers.
Airports that are seeing growth are paying for it, he added.
"Some airports saw some increases but not without spending a lot of money for additional services," Urbigkit said. "They did quite well but they also put $300,000 or $400,000 of their own money into bigger planes and going to Salt Lake (City)."
Urbigkit said a report determined that about 52 percent of people flying out of Riverton Regional Airport registered a zip code other than 82501.
Urbigkit said Riverton Regional still hits the 10,000 enplanement mark reliably, so a good flow of federal funding is available for the airport.
He said airport leaders also hope to see more airport traffic as planned uranium mining development begins, as well as with the expected federal Job Corps Center.
"Obviously Riverton is in a unique position to be able to serve that," Urbigkit said.
The airport board now is an official body of the City of Riverton. Members Bob Steen, Jim Matson, Cindy Olson and Dean Peranteaux all are expected to be reappointed, although the city did not make the appointments official at Tuesday's city council meeting.
Matson serves as chairman. He and Peranteaux agreed to take four-year terms, while Steen and Olson will serve two-year terms for now so that the entire board won't be up for reappointment at the same time.
An additional member will be appointed by Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness.
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