Howard Pickett, Mammoth Mountain’s Chief Marketing Officer, visited Mammoth Lakes Town Council Wednesday evening to talk about the future of air service, both immediate and long-term.
Pickett explained that the service has been very successful thus far, and that the upcoming winter season would prove no exception.
“Booking factors are already about 27 percent ahead of last year,” Pickett said.
Last winter, overall load factors were about 66 percent, which was an increase over the 2008/09 season, even with a second LAX flight. Pickett added that summer flights have been performing as planned, but could not tell the Council the load factors just yet.
“I can’t discuss the loads until the contract is up because it is confidential information,” Pickett said.
Pickett pointed out the strong economic returns from the passengers disembarking in Mammoth from the flights. He estimated that while it cost $2.2 million to $2.5 million to support air service this year, the benefit to the community was approximately $23 million to $25 million.
“We discovered that 45 percent of the people [using air service] would not have come without the flights and 85 percent said having the flights available will make them visit more often,” Pickett explained.
He laid out the Mountain’s strategies for success, which fall into four categories. First, make sure the community understands the importance of air service. Second, create a long term plan for growth. Third, develop public/private partnerships, making Mammoth Lakes Tourism a leader. Lastly, provide broad public outreach.
Pickett feels that if these strategies are incorporated, Mammoth should see $134 million in annual economic impact and that it should be supporting 12-13 flights per day with 185,694 total seats (approximately 123,000 in winter and 62,000 in summer) by 2018.
The flights would go to a variety of locations and would use several airlines with mid-sized jets, he said. Some of the markets that Pickett thinks would be good next steps for Mammoth are San Diego and Orange County.
As part of the long term plan for growth, Pickett pointed to infrastructure needs such as terminal expansion and runway lengthening.
“The terminal will already be over capacity this year,” Pickett said. The runway needs to be lengthened in order to compensate for Mammoth’s altitude, temperatures and wind, which affect load factors.
Pickett explained that the key next steps would be to build a permanent organization for air service, to continue negotiations with airline partners for near-term service growth, and to begin public outreach.
Following Pickett’s presentation, Council approved a supplemental services agreement with Reinard Brandley for the new terminal and ramp requirements study.
“We already know we have deficiencies so we need to get going because it is going to be a long and expensive process,” Town Manager Rob Clark told Council.
The study is the first step that is required to complete a new terminal. It will be funded through an FAA grant of $180,000. The Town is required to provide a 5 percent, or $9,000 match, but will use the Airport’s Passenger Facility Charge fee collected from the airlines to come up with its match.
“This is a small contribution to an investment in our future,” commented Council member Matthew Lehman.