Subsidy being discussed to keep commercial flights in Pocatello

POCATELLO, Idaho (KIFI) – After deciding to retire, Tami Wilde wanted to live in Pocatello, and the airport in the Gate City was a huge factor in her decision.

“One of the reasons that we chose to retire here is because it had an airport that took us to a hub that enabled us to go anywhere we needed to go,” Wilde said.

But with commercial travel cuts being discussed, Wilde is worried she won’t get to travel as much.

“We’re starting to panic,” Wilde said. “We don’t want to leave. We’re very happily living here. I visit my family several times a year and they also come to see us. We need these flights.”

The Pocatello City Council is expected to consider spending $800,000 on a subsidy to SkyWest.

The subsidy would help save the only round-trip flight from the Pocatello Regional Airport to Salt Lake City.

While the subsidy could be a burden on taxpayers, Airport Manager Alan Evans says no subsidy could have a larger impact.

“If we were to lose this flight, there is a potential that we would lose a great deal of federal funding for this airport,” Evans said.

Evans says the pandemic played a role in reducing flights, but says a labor shortage is the biggest factor

“It’s really attributed to a lack of pilots in the system and this is nationwide,” Evans said. “This is not a Pocatello-only problem.”

Evans believes as the city continues to grow, having the airport operational becomes even more important.

“It’s an economic driver to have commercial service in your community,” Evans said. “There’s a lot of regional and community things that are happening here in Pocatello, and we believe that this is viable.”

Pocatello native Bardel Bybee lives in Washington, and says he loves that he is able to fly right into his hometown.

“It’s huge,” Bybee said. “Rather than flying into Salt Lake from Portland and then either having the additional expense of renting a car or inconveniencing a family member to drive down to Salt Lake to pick us up. It’s just huge.”

For Bybee and Wilde, they believe eliminating the Skywest flight will ultimately hurt the city.

“There’s just so many other reasons why it should remain,” Bybee said. “Just the jobs that would be lost in the airport for one thing. I think it’d be pretty shortsighted to not keep this available for the city of Pocatello.”

“It would be pretty sad to see it discontinued,” Wilde said. “I think it would hurt a lot of people that live here in Pocatello and the surrounding area.”

The issue will be discussed at 6 pm on Thursday during the City Council’s regular meeting. The public is welcome to attend.

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