Chico, Calif. – The possibility of commercial air service returning to the Chico Municipal Airport is developing on a number of fronts, according to Airport Manager Sherry Miller.
She says she has received positive feedback from a number of air carriers which say they are interested in Chico.
Miller says the representatives she has spoken with say they like what the Chico community offers, including being home to Chico State and the extensive health platform offered by Enloe Medical Center. She says representatives are also aware the population of the region is growing.
According to the Butte County Local Agency Formation Commission, also known as LAFCO, Chico’s population is projected to grow anywhere from 15,000-30,000 over the next 30 years.
Miller says having commercial air service is directly related to the long-term economic and growth success and well-being of the community.
While conversations have been encouraging, including discussion of possible routes, Miller says there is one aspect carriers say is missing, and that is something known as a Minimum Guarantee Program.
Miller describes such a program as a financial assurance platform for air carriers. She says a prospective carrier will not come into a new market unless they know they are going to at least break even on their investment or even make a small profit. She says industry standards are for airlines to expect a $1-2 million of guaranteed funds identified.
Where do those funds come from? Miller says there are two components involved.
One is from community support for the concept of commercial air service in the form of committing to purchasing tickets. The other is through a physical accumulation of cash reserves raised by a community. The funds guarantee that a carrier will not lose money from operating service. Miller stresses the Minimum Guarantee Program is common practice within the industry.
Miller says other progress on the matter includes a number of meetings with marketing professionals to develop plans to create a public awareness and media campaign to educate the community on what will be necessary to reach an agreement with a prospective carrier.
The latest developments come as the Redding Municipal Airport announced United Airlines will begin offering direct service flights to Los Angeles in March of 2019.
Miller sees that agreement as a positive for the Chico market. She believes other carriers will see that United is successful in offering the Los Angeles service, and will want to get a piece of the business.
The community-based organization Jet Chico is working closely with the City of Chico on this initiative.