SkyWest Airlines is the first carrier that will be contacted by the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport in its campaign to restore flights to Seattle.
That effort is expected to get underway as soon as the airport’s authority board selects a consultant, a decision that was tabled at a Monday meeting.
The board had been poised to approve an agreement with the Eugene, Ore., firm of Sixel. But that decision was delayed so that other firms that provided proposals could revise their submissions based on the airport’s new strategy for recruiting airlines.
SkyWest is a key piece of a plan that involves Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air and any other airline data indicates could be a match for Lewiston, said interim airport Manager Clarence W. “Bill” McKown.
The discussions with Horizon Air, for now, would be about if Lewiston could be a backup airport when weather prevents planes from landing at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport where Horizon Air has Seattle flights.
The airport board had originally asked consultants to share how they might help the airport win federal money this year that can encourage airlines to locate in new communities by guaranteeing certain levels of revenue.
“There’s a better way to do it,” McKown said.
The problem with the federal money is that numerous airports are going after it this year, including many in situations much worse than this region, McKown said.
Even though Lewiston lost its Horizon Air Seattle flights about one year ago, SkyWest still takes passengers to Salt Lake City. Plus Horizon Air goes to Seattle from Pullman.
The Pullman airport wants to grow by adding Denver flights and is seeking the federal money, but that didn’t play into the Lewiston airport’s choice to refrain from submitting an application, McKown said.
The Lewiston board will revisit the issue again at a meeting in upcoming weeks, reviewing its options for consultants.
Two firms, other than Sixel, have shown interest in helping Lewiston.
They are the Boyd Group in Evergreen, Colo., that recruited SkyWest to Lewiston more than a decade ago, and Airplanners, whose top executives are in Seattle and Avon, Colo.
One strength of Sixel is that the firm gave the Lewiston airport access to some of its data even though it hasn’t yet been chosen, McKown said.
“Our particular area of expertise is small to mid-sized airports located in secondary market areas,” according to Sixel’s proposal. “We have been responsible for adding over 350 new routes at over 100 different airports.”
Sixel would charge $35,400 per year, not including $7,500 if the airport were to seek the federal money in 2020. The board didn’t discuss specifically how much the others might cost.
Whoever the board selects will be expected to begin its work immediately, McKown said.
“Within a year,” he said, “we may have something going on.”
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