By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com
(Riverton, Wyo.) – Enplanements at Riverton Regional Airport are off for the first two months of 2013, continuing what Airport Manager and Riverton Public Works Director Bill Urbigkit said is a trend “that causes me concern.”
Enplanements, a term referring to the number of people who board Great Lakes Airlines flights in Riverton, totaled 1,776 for the first two months of this year, down 230 passengers from the same two months in 2012. There were 906 boardings in January and 870 in February. “Traditionally, February is a slow month,” Urbigkit said, but he said enplanements have been decreasing since 2011. ”For all of 2012 we had 13,375 passenger boardings, which was down 1,000 passengers from 2011. We’re trending in the wrong direction.”
Looking over the numbers at his office at Riverton City Hall, Urbigkit said it’s time to market the airport again. ” We have to do more to combat the perception that commercial flights are unreliable and that you can’t fly out of here. We need to consider another marketing effort, we can’t sit idly by and assume boardings will get better.”
Urbigkit said one strategy he will pursue is to get officials from Great Lakes Airlines back up to Riverton and talk about another marketing effort.
Riverton Regional was last promoted when the Wyoming Aeronautics Division created the “Fly Wyoming” program, which promoted flying from all of the states seven commercial airports some six years ago.
“Flying out of Riverton is a great deal, not only do you save time by not driving to another city or another state, but you don’t have the travel costs and parking fees you find at other airports if you fly out here. If you book your flights at least 30 days in advance, you can get the same prices as you can in Casper,” he said. Urbigkit also asked, rhetorically, “what is your time worth? If you fly out of Riverton, as City Council Member Rich Gard likes to say, you get two extra days on your vacation or trip.”
Urbigkit said only one other airport in the state showed a decrease in boardings, and that was at Cheyenne, which recently lost its American Airlines flight to Dallas, which impacted its boarding statistics.
“If we don’t do anything to combat the negative perception, it will become a self-fullfiling prophecy,” he said.
Now the good news.
Great Lakes Airlines, the only commercial airline serving Riverton, told Urbigkit that they would be adding capacity starting in April. “We’ll have twice-a-day (Embraer EMB 120) Brasilias, a 30 passenger aircraft, and a once daily Beech 1900, with 19 passengers,” he said. “Advance bookings are looking good right now, and summer is always better than winter, and in summer NOLS (The National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander) is huge for us.”