Montana Residents: Save the Butte Airport

"We're on the verge of devastation."

Butte's Business Leaders Need Airport

Business leaders in Butte worry the cutbacks will have a devastating long-term impact on the local economy.

"Montana's pretty remote to get to to begin with, so it makes it a little more difficult, especially for our West Coast guests specifically, to get to Butte," Montana state senator and fly fishing guide Steve Gallus told ABCNews.com.

Gallus plans to attend Tuesday's meeting and expects a large turnout, including representatives of the outdoor and hotel industries, rental car companies and restaurant owners.

"I think it's going to be well attended by everyone," Gallus said.

Tuesday's meeting brings together Butte's business leaders who will work to get commitments to use the airport so the town won't also lose service from its soon-to-be-one remaining carrier, Delta's SkyWest. Leaders also plan to bring up other ways the community can support the airport, which include possible financial support to carriers to ensure service in and out of Butte continues, Smitham said.

"Other communities have put together things like travel banks and other types of financial incentives and subsidies that help offset the cost of serving in an area where service is kind of marginal," Smitham said. For instance, he explained that a business could contribute $10,000 to a travel fund that it would use on plane tickets for a set period of time, effectively guaranteeing an airline that it would have money coming in.

Though SkyWest still flies between Butte and Salt Lake City, the lack of service to a second major hub has some community members worried. Griffith also told ABCNews.com Monday that he fears that without competition, SkyWest's prices will rise.

Horizon now carries 19 percent of total traffic boarding planes in Butte, Griffith said. He said that the airport has 250 seats per day coming into Butte, and today Horizon accounts for 150 of those seats when shared between Butte and Bozeman travelers.

In a July 21 letter, Butte's chamber of commerce asked businesses in southwest Montana to join forces to save the airport.

"We should all be gravely concerned about our air service and be willing to help rectify this situation," the letter said. "Sixty percent of all airline passengers are business travelers, and this segment has the most to lose if we no longer have convenient air service in southwest Montana.

"We are calling on you as a major business in southwest Montana to pledge your organization's support for using Bert Mooney Airport for all of your business travel needs," the letter said.

Smitham, for one, is confident Tuesday's meeting will make a difference.

"Butte's got a history of not taking these things lightly," he said. "They kind of wake the dragon in us."

ABC News' Matt Hosford contributed to this report.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 5510762. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 5510762. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 5510762. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 5510762. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 5510762. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 5510762. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 5510762.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...