Great Lakes renews Merced air service
By Ameera Butta butt
last updated: October 08, 2010 02:07:20 AM
MERCED — Great Lakes Airlines, the airline that provides daily flights to Las Vegas from the Merced Regional Airport, will be Merced’s carrier for an additional two years.
In a shaky economy, Merced still can boast a stable relationship with an airline that provides local service — as well as an airport that may have the opportunity to expand its services.
In addition to updating the two-year lease this week, Merced is also in talks with the Wyoming-based airline about flights to Los Angeles International Airport, according to Bill Cahill, assistant city manager.
“It’s nothing really immediately pending, it is something we would like to see,” he said, adding that the airline has “talked to us about it a bit.”
He stressed that a deal isn’t set in stone, saying “they haven’t announced anything yet or given any particular date.”
The airline started the Las Vegas service in April. An estimated 300 to 400 leave Merced for Sin City each month, depending on what month it is, according to Cahill.
“They scheduled the service to Las Vegas a few months ago, and that has built up the ridership already,” he said.
But the city would like to see the target goal of a little fewer than 1,000 passengers a month — a number the previous airline, Mesa Airlines, was flying out three years ago on average, Cahill said. “We would like to see a return to that,” he said.
Moreover, the lease will provide the airport with increased annual revenues of $2,400.
Cahill said the city wants to make the airport more self-sufficient. He said each time there’s a chance to renew an airline lease, the rent is increased, “so it reduces the amount of general tax support.” The airport receives more than $100,000 a year from the general fund.
Each week, about 14 flights, two a day, leave the Merced airport for Las Vegas.
A recent search on the airline Web site found the price of flights to Las Vegas for an upcoming weekend going for more than $300.
“We look forward to continuing service to a major destination like Las Vegas,” Cahill said, adding that he wants the airport to support more passengers, more flights and bigger aircraft.
“Hopefully, we may also see service to other destinations as well,” he said. “The major advantage is Las Vegas is out of state and is actually the largest- volume airport west of the Rocky Mountains.”
Phone calls to Great Lake Airlines weren’t returned Tuesday.
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