BULLHEAD CITY – It’s wheels up for American Airlines in Mohave County.
The airline will stop air service at the Laughlin/Bullhead International Airport in 2018.
Citing lackluster ridership, American Airlines’ non-stop flights to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport will end on Feb. 14, two days short of the air service’s one-year anniversary in Mohave County.
“It just didn’t meet local demand,” said Nichelle Tait, American Airlines spokesperson. “Every so often we have to make these decisions.”
While the 70-passenger Bombardier CRJ700 needed to remain 75-80 percent full on its daily service that began on Feb. 16, the numbers failed to reach that mark. Tait said that she could not comment on exact ridership figures.
After nearly two decades of work to get a major air carrier to open a terminal in Laughlin/Bullhead, John Hastings, president and chairman of the Mohave County Airport Authority Inc., said he was sad to see his efforts were in vain.
“Personally, it is devastating to see it not work, because the entire region needs this to have any future economic development and now it’s going away,” Hastings said. “It didn’t get used enough. There were just not enough people taking advantage of it.”
With about 1 million fewer local residents needed to make the service successful, Bullhead/Laughlin International Airport officials had hoped to rely on tourists flying in to visit one of the nine area casinos, something which didn’t quite pan out, Hastings said.
The airport authority spent more than $250,000 in marketing for the airline.
In 2008, the airport received a Small Community Air Service Development grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. A second grant of $750,000 was awarded last year, but has proven to become an unsustainable avenue of funding, Hastings said.
“We did receive the grant, and it is being spent,” Hastings said. “By the time it’s all said and done it will pretty much be gone, and the odds of getting another grant are not favorable. After all the fundraising, we had $530,000 in local matching money. There is no way I’m getting that again. Do I go back to the same people who wrote a check and say ‘it didn’t work last time, do you want to write another check?’ You’re kidding me. I wouldn’t write another check.”
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