Central Wyoming Regional Airport hit 10,000 enplanements this week, meeting the annual threshold for waiver-free federal funding for the third time in 10 years, city administrator Kyle Butterfield said during a Riverton City Council meeting Tuesday.
He attributed the achievement to Riverton’s partnership with SkyWest Airlines, which provides commercial air service in Wyoming through a statewide capacity purchase agreement.
Before SkyWest came on board two years ago, Butterfield said enplanements had “really hit a ceiling” in Riverton.
“We couldn’t really break that 8,000 threshold,” he said. “(With) SkyWest … immediately we saw that increase.”
Of course, the numbers fell soon afterward due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they later rebounded to reach record levels, Butterfield said.
Enplanements aren’t “trending as high” this year, he noted, because SkyWest currently offers only one flight a day.
Still, Butterfield said, the airport is “exceeding what we did” before the airline came to town.
“Despite the negative impacts and the challenges that air service is going through … we saw 92 percent growth (because) of our air service partner,” Butterfield said. “Behind Sheridan, we are the fastest-growing (airport) coming out the pandemic.”
‘We’re pretty lucky’
If Riverton hadn’t joined the statewide agreement with SkyWest, Butterfield said the city would be “hard-pressed to have commercial air service.”
He pointed to almost 60 other airports throughout the country that have lost commercial air service since 2019.
“We’re pretty lucky that we’re not on that list,” Butterfield said. “The airline industry (is) contracting. … They’re going to markets that can provide the most revenue possible.”
In Riverton, Butterfield said, SkyWest gets a minimum revenue guarantee as part of its capacity purchase agreement with the state, and that makes Central Wyoming Regional Airport a “safer bet” for the airline.
“Regional commercial air service requires (a revenue guarantee) – period,” Butterfield said. “The days of having someone come fly in our market without some level of guarantee are gone.”
In fiscal year 2022, the local portion of the minimum revenue guarantee for SkyWest amounted to almost $590,000, according to Butterfield’s presentation.
He noted that Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon used federal COVID-19 aid to cover about $185,000 of that total.
For more information call the City of Riverton at 856-2227.