An airplane at the Casper/Natrona County International Airport in 2019. (Shutterstock)

CASPER, Wyo. — On Tuesday, the Natrona County Board of County Commissioners approved a minimum revenue guarantee with Delta Air Lines that will see the county pay $880,583 between Jan. 1 and June 30.

The commissioners approved the agreement by a 3–1 vote, with Commissioner Dave North casting the lone dissenting vote and Commissioner Jim Milne absent from the meeting.

It’s not the first time the county has agreed to an MRG with Delta Air Lines, though it is roughly twice the cost of the prior agreement.

“This is about double what the last minimum revenue guarantee was,” North said.

The increase is due to several factors, including the type of planes Delta looks to fly and increased costs of fuel and labor.

Commission Chairman Steve Freel said he believes the agreement was necessary, as declining it could lead to Delta pulling out of the Casper-Natrona County International Airport. If that were to happen, it would leave United Airlines as the sole airline operating out of the local airport.

“You need two competing airlines going at one another to keep rates down,” Freel said after the meeting. “If we didn’t pay it and Delta said, ‘With no minimum revenue guarantee, we’re out of here,’ well, then you have United able to charge more because they’re the only game in town. … We really want to avoid creating a monopoly.”

At the same time, Freel said, the airport and Fly Casper are looking to bring additional airline companies in.

Commissioner Dallas Laird said that he, like North, wasn’t entirely comfortable with paying that much money to a business, though he added he thinks it’s important to keep Delta.

“We need to have a couple airlines in here; we really do,” Laird said. “The problem is, and they’ve addressed it, is that once one leaves it’s like an ex-wife — she ain’t going to come back.”

Freel added that losing one airline could potentially have a devastating ripple effect.

“If people stop flying because that price has gone up, [the remaining airline] could come and say, ‘Well, give us a minimum revenue guarantee,'” he said. “We’d say, ‘No, we already agreed we’re not going to do that.’ Well now they’re gone and we’re left with an airport that has nothing. You can’t do that. People look at it in terms of locals who fly in and out, but it’s not just that. There are also people who fly in and out for business, and if you take this away, then people would need to start flying into Denver and renting cars, and then you may lose some business, too.”

The agreement in full is attached:

Clarification, March 8: The agreement roughly doubles the cost to the county. This has been clarified and the agreement is attached.