Low Cost Airfare Initiative
Low Cost Airfare Initiative Accomplishments
It has been seven years since the Low Cost Airfare Initiative was launched and we would like to thank you for your contribution to this important community initiative. A great deal has been accomplished with your investment; here are just a few highlights:
- Lower ticket prices saved Great Falls travelers over $32 million
- GTF becomes the low cost leader
- Frontier Airlines flies from GTF during 2012 to 2015
- GTF secures $385,000 Small Community Air Service Development Grant (“SCASD Grant”)
- United Airlines launches direct Chicago service.
- United success extends to Denver.
- Lower prices lead to record boardings.
- Airline traffic growth was widespread
A great deal has been accomplished since the the Low Cost Airfare Initiative was established in 2011. However, our remaining SCASD Grant funds will expire this year and we anticipate that the funding pool will be effectively exhausted at the end of the extended United Chicago season in September. As you might have guessed, we are seeking to replenish the pool in order to continue the progress of this initiative.
The other Montana airports have also been busy in the past five years. Bozeman whose immense incentive program has exceeded $8 million in the past ten years has become the fastest growing airport in the country. Their boardings have doubled in the past ten years. With new airlines and more destination cities, Bozeman is drawing leakage from airports throughout central Montana including GTF.
Great Falls has been the smaller of these airports for over three decades. However, as the 50-seat jets are retired from all major US airlines over the next five to ten years, the very viability of daily air service in Great Falls will be challenged.
Low Cost Airfare Initiative Benefits to Great Falls
The partners in the Low Cost Airfare Initiative believe that developing a second round of airline incentives would have the following benefits to Great Falls:
- Millions of dollars in airfare savings that can be spent elsewhere in the community. The last program saved the Great Falls traveling community $32 million in the past seven years. Our initial incentive contribution was a very small fraction of the savings amount.
- More travel options for Great Falls residents.
- As demonstrated during the last incentive program, thousands of additional visitors will be attracted to our community by new direct routes and lower ticket prices. The Montana Office of Tourism estimates that each visitor arriving by air supports $631 in business spending during their visit.
- Preservation of our existing air service for the future. GTF flights are very full today; one more round of incentivized growth should bring larger airplanes and more flights on existing routes. Just like the last incentives ultimately resulted in extra Denver flights and summer mainline service to Minneapolis, the next incentive program will inspire similar growth on other routes.
- The ability to apply for future SCASD grants to help leverage our incentive dollars.
Pledge to Support the Low Cost Airfare Initiative
The Chamber and the Airport hope to compile incentives for 2020 service and beyond. There are several reasons that this timing is important. Most of the airlines that serve Montana will be visiting in September and this will be the perfect opportunity to see if American or United would support a new SCASD air service grant proposal for a new LAX flight (Delta is not building new LAX service). LAX is our third largest market at GTF and is the largest market with no direct service. GTF received the current $350,000 SCASD grant in 2015 and 2020 will be the first year that we can apply again.
Further, Frontier Airlines is again adding service to their Denver hub and we think it will be critical to make a play for the ultra-low cost carrier before they expand into Kalispell or Helena. Their impact on our average fare and visitor traffic was substantial. We hope to present incentive offers to all of the aforementioned carriers this September.
We ask you to continue your support of this important initiative by considering a new pledge to the Low Cost Airfare Initiative. Feel free to contact either Shane or John today with any questions or to make a pledge.