If you’ve been around here long enough, you know that every new idea eventually circles back around.
Particularly when folks are feeling flush.
Makes me think the term “snow-blindness” should have a second definition.
Back in 2002, which, given the pace of life these days, pretty much sounds like the 19th century, then-Mammoth Mountain Ski Area CEO Rusty Gregory proposed flying 757s from Dallas and Chicago into Mammoth Yosemite Airport. The environmental impact reports contemplated that the airport would serve more than 300,000 passengers annually.
Commercial air service was finally restored in 2009-2010.
We’ll be lucky to achieve 300,000 total enplanements by 2022-2023 given the current usage.
Mammoth-Yosemite has always been dogged by its limitations (only one runway, which is too short, an inadequate terminal, inadequate footprint which make it too small to accommodate bigger jets, poor weather, etc.) and its lousy marketing.
From the July 15 editorial:
Commercial air service into Mammoth peaked in 2013 with 30,858 enplanements. By 2016, that number had fallen to 22,253, a 28 percent drop. The numbers YTD for 2017 are off another 13 percent. June 2017, at 834 enplanements, was 16 percent off 2016.
Meanwhile, Fresno’s summer air traffic (June through September) totaled 253,430 enplanements in 2015 and then jumped to 284,967 in 2016 during the same time period, a 12.4 percent increase.
Some of that may have been due to Fresno aggressively adding seats. In 2015, it had 275,027 available commercial seats during those four months. In 2016, it offered 44,486 more seats, for a total of 319,513 seats.
The bulk of those additional seats were offered June through August.
In 2015, it had load factors of 98.3 percent in June and 99.2 percent in July.
In 2016, it added 6,910 passengers in July, but offered 18,814 more seats. Sure, the load factor went down to 85.6 percent, but using MLT math, each of those customers was worth at least $1,000, so they brought in $7 million worth of incremental revenue.
Question: How is Fresno, California eating our summer airline snack box?
A key factor, it would appear, is that no one knows there is air service to Mammoth Lakes.
The top Google search result for “Yosemite National Park: Which airport might work best?” Turns up a TripAdvisor article which touts Fresno as the top choice, followed by Merced, Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Doesn’t mention Mammoth, even though Mammoth-Yosemite Airport is equidistant from Yosemite Valley to Fresno-Yosemite Airport (estimated 2.5 hours by car).
Another TripAdvisor forum titled “Best Airport for Yosemite” similarly does not mention Mammoth. I kept looking at various sites. I kept coming up empty.
Seems like we need to do a better job of getting the word out that we exist, and that it’s ten times more enjoyable to approach Yosemite Valley from the east versus the west. Heck, we might even convince them the Valley is overrated and it’s more fun (and sane) to stick around here.
Seems as if the goal over the past several years is to have a commercial airport for the sake of being able to say we have one (ironically, for marketing reasons), while doing our best to limit the losses.
So it was an interesting turn in 2017 to see Inyo and Mono Counties join together in a working group to discuss the idea of a regional air service solution.
Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi was quoted in The Sheet’s October 21 issue as saying that “Mead and Hunt [the consulting firm that MLT recently hired to look at regional air service solutions], is absolutely factoring Bishop Airport into its 5-to-10 year strategic plan.”
That plan was unveiled earlier this month. The initial report focused on Mammoth-Yosemite opportunities and didn’t factor Bishop in much at all, making Mono County Supervisor Bob Gardner furious.
“I thought there was going to be more of a focus on what makes most sense in terms of reliable regional air service. The Eastern Sierra is a region, dammit,” said Gardner.
What’s interesting is that Mammoth Mountain really used to care about Mammoth versus Bishop as a primary airport, just because the proximity to town was such a selling point.
Reliability, however, seems to be more of a selling point. As MMSA’s Eric Clark said in October, “Our interest is to make it easier for them [customers] to get here.”
If that’s the interest, then a few fiefdoms are going to have to be torn down over the next few years. 1.) Someone needs to tell Mammoth Public Works Director Grady Dutton that a $35 million airport terminal expansion at Mammoth Yosemite Airport makes no sense given the current air traffic numbers. 2.) While it’s certainly a challenge to market an airport with as much unreliability and as many weather cancellations as Mammoth, resisting Bishop as a winter alternative is folly. Likewise, the stagnancy in our summer air business represents a gigantic missed opportunity.