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Flyin’ high: Twin Falls City Council likely to approve Denver flight

In The Media

Author: Pat Sutphin, Times-News

After years of anticipation, the Magic Valley airport is poised to get a non-stop Denver flight.

Joslin Field, Magic Valley Regional Airport has worked out a transportation service agreement with SkyWest Airlines — the company that will service the United Airlines flights to and from Denver. The Twin Falls City Council will decide at its Tuesday meeting whether to approve that agreement. The city has voiced support for a Denver flight in the past — and has pledged $25,000 to help market it — so it’d be surprising to see a vote against the proposal.

If the council votes in favor of the agreement, SkyWest will begin offering a round-trip, once-a-day flight May 12. Each flight will offer 50 seats.

Airport Manager Bill Carberry said tickets will be on sale soon if the City Council allows the flight to move forward.

The Magic Valley has lobbied for a while to get a Denver flight. Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce CEO and City Councilmember Shawn Barigar said the idea of a Denver flight started gaining significant traction three or four years ago.

As south-central Idaho’s population has grown and more residents have started using the airport, the plausibility of adding Denver service has gone up. The airport has seen more than a 50% increase in fliers during the last five years. If it hadn’t been for the COVID-19 pandemic, SkyWest likely would have started offering the flight sooner.

“It’s exciting news,” Carberry said. “I just encourage people to be excited about it and use the new service.”

Feds funding flight

The Denver flight might not have been possible if the airport hadn’t won a $900,000 small community air service grant last February from the U.S. Department of Transportation. That funding’s key because it enables the airport to guarantee SkyWest that the flight won’t lose money.
If the Denver flights aren’t close to full during the first few months of service this summer, SkyWest won’t have to absorb the losses. The grant money will make up the difference. Essentially, the grant means adding the Denver flight isn’t a very risky move for the airline.

Magic Valley governments and business have committed money to the flight, too. Twin Falls and Twin Falls County have each put up $25,000 and local businesses have added another $102,000. That money will go toward marketing the new flight in an effort to make sure its seats fill up quickly.

A Denver flight would come with a host of economic benefits, Barigar said. It’ll potentially lead to more business travel. More tourists could start to fly here.

The flight will also help the airport in general by drawing in more people.

Right now the Magic Valley airport offers just one destination: Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City has a major airport, but it offers half as many flights as Denver. In many instances, Denver’s more convenient than Salt Lake City because it reduces the need for connecting flights.

A Denver flight will also help the airport compete with Salt Lake City and Boise for fliers. Today only a quarter of Twin Falls fliers chose the Magic Valley airport, but adding Denver service could mean more opt for the convenience of the local airport.

Carberry that there are a lot of positive signs for the airline industry, which has seen fewer fliers during the last year.

Companies have started to call back flight crews they sent home earlier in the pandemic, Carberry said. Summer travel bookings are up. And air travel is rebounding in the Mountain West more quickly than elsewhere.

“Our area’s doing a lot better than other areas,” Carberry said. “We think we’ll have legs with launching it just prior to summer.”

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