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home : opinion : columns April 29, 2016

5/25/2014 6:02:00 AM
Plenty of shared blame in loss of airline service

By George Francuski
Kingman resident

Once again Kingman is losing a valuable resource. Kingman's Essential Air Service subsidy will end. This means the end of the only regularly scheduled commercial air service for the entire county. Once more the leaders of our community have failed us.

In 2009, Kingman quietly relinquished the Colorado River water allocation it was granted in 1922. Our city leaders said there was nothing our city could do since the agreement called for Kingman to prove it had made progress toward capturing the water. Lake Havasu City quickly acquired the water which was once Kingman's.

Today, when water seems to be a concern, one must question how our leaders did not do all possible to satisfy the conditions of the agreement.

Now we are told our leaders again failed to act when faced with the threatened loss of a major piece of infrastructure in our town. The Federal Aviation Administration warned the Kingman Airport Authority Inc., Great Lakes Airline, Inc., and our city and county governmental administrations when it last renewed the Kingman Airport Authority's application for continued EAS money. In its approval of more than $1 million per year subsidy, the FAA warned it would be watching Great Lakes' performance. It advised that the EAS money was at risk if ridership did not increase.

Since then, what has our city council done? When I spoke with members of the council, my concern was met with blank stares. The city manager at the time, Jack Kramer, also failed to understand the importance for the city government to act. He dismissed my questioning of the Airport Authority's responsibility by saying the city's contract with KAA, Inc., allowed them to do "whatever they wanted as long as it is legal." It appears the KAA, Inc.'s, operating contract was renewed a couple years ago without much information regarding the conditions of that contract becoming public knowledge.

Since receiving the FAA warning, what did the Kingman Airport Authority, Inc., do? This PRIVATE company contracted by city council to operate and safeguard our airport did nothing. It was fully aware Great Lakes Airline fills less than 20 percent of the seats on its aircraft. Yet, instead of seeking a more aggressive airline or working more closely with GLA to increase passenger loads, KAA, Inc., just wrote a letter of support for GLA in the application for EAS funds. Citizens of Kingman deserve to be made aware of the contractual arrangement, funding, and operation of KAA, Inc.

Mohave County government failed its 200,000 residents by not acting. Now Bennett Bratley's job as director of Mohave County Economic Development Department has become more difficult.

When we speak of the leaders in our community who failed us, we need to look at business leaders. Great Lakes officials have done our city a tremendous disservice. This national airline is the largest recipient of EAS funds. At the time of its application to secure Kingman's EAS funds, half of its revenue - yes, half of its total revenue was this government subsidy. When Congress decided to deregulate the airline industry, it recognized that airlines would drastically cut back the cities they serviced - flying only those cities that would be profitable. Congress developed the EAS program to allow airlines to continue to fly to cities such as Kingman. These subsidies were intended to provide operational funds until the airline could promote and establish the profitability of these routes.

Great Lakes had no desire to promote air service in Kingman. When was the last time you saw an advertisement in our local newspapers, heard a spot on the radio, or received a direct mailer?

Its business plan was to fly its planes only to meet the terms of the federal contract. That meant EAS money for every landing regardless if any passengers deplaned.

Why fly passengers requiring additional fuel, airline personnel, baggage handling, servicing customers, etc. when you can collect a tidy sum and save the wear and tear on your aircraft and pay for the very minimum of employees needed. Corporate welfare in the purest form. This company never attempted to improve the ridership in Kingman.

This loss will negatively impact Kingman and Mohave County's commercial air service for years if not decades. By failing to build ridership, GLA has eliminated any commercial airline from considering servicing Kingman. If GLA used the EAS funds for what they were intended (and if the KAA, Inc., and our local government would have made sure it did so), this route would show a profit for any airline wishing to serve Kingman.

If Great Lakes would have acted as a responsible and active member of our business community we would not be losing this valuable resource.

As long as we vote for representatives unable or unwilling to do their job of protecting our assets, our community will continue to suffer. As long as Kingman Airport Authority, Inc., is allowed to operate without the media questioning its actions and the council turning a blind eye, the airport will never realize its potential.

The loss of airline service at the Kingman airport is indeed unfortunate.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Article comment by: Rate too high

It is obvious George doesn't know about the water issues. It doesn't matter how much money is spent on advertising or promotions, flights to CA just would not make it. Flights to Phoenix didn't make it. George how many flights have you taken out of Kingman? How many of your friends fly out of Kingman? The rate is too high and there is nothing local entities can to to increase flights.

Posted: Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Article comment by: B. Franklin

At a "more than $1 million per year subsidy" it seems that the American taxpayer was on the hook for $1014 for each of the 986 passengers that flew Great Lakes over the year.

Of course this can't continue.

Posted: Monday, May 26, 2014
Article comment by: Justa Citizen

I guess some people haven't noticed a lot of people on here keep a constant diatribe going about how everything is Bush's fault. Almost 6 years after he left office they are still trying to blame everything on him.

I guess it goes both ways. No sense in actually ferreting out the facts about who is to blame when everybody has their favorite whipping boy to blame it on.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: R H

Kingman does not need a subsidy for a service it does not use. If Great Lakes Airlines depends so much on this subsidy for it's very existence , CUT the subsidy and let them go under. I flew out of IGM exactly ONE time back when another airline operated there and , while it was nice to fly out of a local airport , the fact remains that the market will not support it. If the market will not support it , the government has no business supporting it , especially if McCarran is only 90 minutes away . There is no 'right' to have local airport access . Lay off the TSA guy and put the deputy back on patrol duty rather than sitting there snacking himself to death .


We don't need it.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: 15 minutes of fame?

You have no idea what you are talking about with the water or air service. Service to Ca was a failure from the beginning. Most travel from Kingman is to phoenix or las vegas. George, how many times have you used the service? Lake Havsue did not capture kingmans water allotment, which shows how much you researched. It is not the airport authority or the council to advertise for a private company. Why do you think Bullhead City doesn't have commercial flights instead of chartered flights? Supply and demand, do you know anything about economics? Even when there was commercial service to phoenix it was unaffordable and much cheaper to drive to Las Vegas. If you want to blame someone, blame the federal government for allowing air prices to get out of hand in rural areas. "If Great Lakes would have acted as a responsible and active member of our business community we would not be losing this valuable resource." You hit the source of the problem right on the head with that statement.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: don trump

Asking the airport authority to advertise or promote an individual airline is sort of like expecting ADOT to run commercials for trucking companies.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: V Stokes

The funding wasn't canceled because of lack of advertising, or mis-management, or the airport authority.

It's because not enough people were willing to pay the prices for the time saved compared to driving to a REAL airport with flights to anywhere. How many folks would pay an additional $150 each to save the 90min trip to LV? And even more so if it was more than 1 person traveling.

"Great Lakes had no desire to promote air service in Kingman."

THAT is the exact reason. Why try to grow your business and be successful when you can just suck at the government teat and still make money?

Small businesses in town put ads in the freebie flyers that we all get. Ever see one for Great Lakes airlines? Nope.

Look at LHC and the Kingman bus system...they survive only on grants and subsidies. Same issue...service only to a very small group can't support it. They don't have to make scads of money, but neither can they lose great amounts either.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: Concern Citizen

George you couldn't be more right, we need to get rid of the airport authority it is a waste of our money. The City of Kingman and the county supervisor need to do something qiuckly.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: some may be happy

Some of the anti growth folks love isolation and may be thrilled that air travel is off the list of connecting the area to the rest of the world. After all they are set in life with no need to bring jobs and commerce to the area and live comfortably off what daddy accomplished.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: center left

Don't you know? The tea party says it's Obama's fault. It doesn't matter what it is, if there is a negative impact from something, it's Obama's fault. General Motors? It's Obama'a fault for bailing them out. I seem to recall however that the bailouts began at the end of the Bush 2 administration. The VA? It's Obama's fault. It doesn't matter that congress, with tea party and neocon support, continues to withold vital funding from the VA. All this while the tea party hypocrites are asking why veterans are being short changed. Meanwhile, I haven't heard any apologies from Bush 2 or Cheney for starting 2 useless wars that killed, maimed, or wounded tens of thousands of American soldiers, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis, and cost close to 2 trillion dollars. And still, the crazy neocons with the support of the tea party wants to start another useless war with Iran because Israel wants US to do their bidding.

I've said it before and I will say it again. The neocons and their tea party supporters are a pox on this nation. Their philosophy of world domination is straight out of the fascist totalitarian playbook. We are now on a runaway train as a small loud minority with their greedy hands on the controls is sending US hurtling down the track to oblivion.

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: justanobody sr

SO.......... is it possible to put the city council & air port authorities ( who are well noted for doing NOTHING) on the last light OUT OF TOWN?

ever contact the air port people? got a secretary who was rude, nasty, and thought she was in charge! with people like that, no wonder the airport is failing!

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Article comment by: Just A Thought

Once again this unfortunate removal of service from Kingman is directly attributable to the current God and guns Republicans that continue to get elected without the ability to lead. Keep making pacts with the devil and the price will continue to be high.

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