A TSA worker screens passengers at the Casper/Natrona County International Airport. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — Reactions have come in following Casper Mayor Bruce Knell’s recent comments on eliminating minimum revenue guarantees and reducing the number of airports in Wyoming.

Casper Airport Manager Weighs in

Glenn Januska, airport manager of Casper/Natrona County International Airport, commented on past MRG agreements.

“We were the only airport in the state that didn’t have some sort of contract,” he said, referring to the first MRG for the airport in 2021. From November 2021 to April 2022, a $755,000 MRG was agreed upon. Of that, the county owed 60% and the Wyoming Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division covered 40%. Januska said, “That service would have gone away. We needed a backstop agreement for SkyWest to stay.”

After that six-month contract, $62,744 was paid to SkyWest, with Natrona County paying $37,664, according to Januska.

He underscored the significance of the service to the community, noting, “competition keeps prices lower.” Januska also said the city has not participated in the MRGs nor attempted to limit others from doing so.

Mayors from Cody, Green River, Rock Springs and Sheridan Respond

Mayor Matt Hall of Cody expressed the importance of airlines for local businesses and tourism.

“It brings a level of tourism to the community. It’s good for our business travelers and people that work remotely,” Mayor Hall said.

He emphasized the need for competitive air services and infrastructure, noting the challenges in attracting businesses without them, and mentioned air prices have been higher since they are now a single-carrier airport.

Mayor Pete Rust of Green River and Mayor Gordon Mickelson of Rock Springs co-authored a letter to Mayor Knell, attached at the bottom of the story, defending the significance of their regional airport. The Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport supports over “$36.9 million in annual economic activity,” the mayors wrote.

They emphasized that Wyoming’s airports overall contribute over $2 billion in annual economic activity.

“We can assure you the investment is well worth it. In fact, a recent statewide study found that the $60.5 million invested in air service minimum revenue guarantees from 2004 to 2020 across the State produced a direct economic output of $808 million for an average ROI of 12.36 for every dollar invested. That means that every dollar invested resulted in over $13 of economic output,” they stated in the letter. 

They contested Mayor Knell’s viewpoint on state and local investment, pointing to a study that showed an average ROI of 12.36 for every dollar invested in MRGs. They concluded with an invitation for Mayor Knell to discuss the matter with local airport leaders.

Mayor Rich Bridger of Sheridan highlighted the drawbacks of a potential reduction in airports. He spoke of the challenges residents might face, especially in winter months, traveling to major regional airports.

“A two-hour drive to Casper in September is not a big deal; unless you consider the cost of fuel, hotel stays, meals and the loss of four hours spent behind the wheel. However, the same trip dramatically changes in the depths of Winter! Leaving Sheridan at 3 a.m. to make an 8 a.m. flight on icy roads in the dark does not look very appealing,” Bridger stated in an email to Oil City News.

Bridger highlighted the community’s support for the current air service and credited the availability of a viable air carrier as one reason for Sheridan’s flourishing light industry.

The joint letter from Rust and Mickelson is as follows: