Low Cost Airfare Initiative
Low Cost Airfare Initiative Accomplishments
It has been 10 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, increasing 20% during our incentive years.
A great deal has been accomplished since the the Low Cost Airfare Initiative was established in 2011. However, our remaining SCASD Grant funds were depleted in 2019. We began rebuilding our fund in 2019, but COVID sidelined our fundraising in 2020 and 2021. We are renewing our efforts this year and hoping to build a fund of $500,000.
The other Montana airports have also been busy in the past five years. Bozeman whose incentive program has exceeded $10 million in the past ten years has become the fastest growing airport in the country, and they are the number one airport now in Montana by more than double the volume of the number two airport which is now Kalispell. With Bozeman's new airlines and more destination cities, their boardings have more than doubled in the past ten years and they are drawing passengers from airports throughout the state because of their $10 million dollar incentive program.
Great Falls has been the smaller of these airports for over three decades due to the lack of population growth, however through our Low Cost Airfaire Initiative we have increased our passenger counts. The other challenge is the 50-seat jets are being retired over the next 5-10 years. Through our Low Cost Airfare Initiative we are looking to bring in 76-seat jets and mainline jets.
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, with their matching dollars, will help leverage our incentive dollars.
Pledge to Support the Low Cost Airfare Initiative
The Chamber and the Airport hope to compile incentives for 2022 service and beyond. There are several reasons that this timing is important. Most of the airlines that serve all of Montana visited Great Falls this past September 2021. This gave them the opportunity to see Great Falls and experience several tours around our area. This gave them and us the perfect opportunity to discuss support on several strategic opportunities. To see if United would support a new SCASD air service grant proposal for a new LAX flight. LAX is our third largest market at GTF and is our largest market with no direct airline service. Our hope with American is a direct route to their Dallas/Fort Worth hub.
Further, Frontier Airlines (recently announced a merger with Spirit Airlines) will be looking for new markets, specifically into Montana. We have an opportunity to bring this ultra-low cost carrier into Great Falls, and they have also expressed an interest in our market. Their impact on our average fare and visitor traffic was substantial in 2012-2015. We hope to present incentive offers to all of the aforementioned carriers this year.
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.