The Garden City Telegram
12/30/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Smooth flight

Partnership between two towns brings success on both fronts.

Taking flight with a new air carrier out of Garden City has so far delivered a smooth ride.

Garden City Regional Airport previously offered service to Kansas City and Denver, yet often struggled to meet the 10,000 annual passenger boardings required to land significant federal funding for airport maintenance and repairs.

Boarding numbers in Garden City soared after the April 2012 launch of American Eagle service to Dallas.

Recently, the city asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to award Essential Air Service status to American Eagle for another two years as a way to keep the airline operating locally.

EAS is a federal program in place to help maintain commercial air service in smaller communities, where airlines might otherwise operate at a loss without the federal subsidy.

As for the need for the subsidy, anyone who'd question the investment in such assistance should be encouraged to hear Garden City's airport is closer to weaning itself off of the aid.

The transition to American Eagle and jet service was in part designed to better position the local service to become self-sufficient.

It was a sensible path, considering EAS subsidies eventually could be shelved at the federal level.

The move also improved the area's air travel opportunities, which represent a key cog in fueling economic growth for the region.

It's worth noting that the progress might not have materialized if not for a nice assist from Dodge City. During its recent meeting, the Garden City Commission rightly credited their neighbors to the east.

The initial proposal called for Dodge City to forego at least part, if not all, of its EAS funds, and combine those dollars with Garden City's allocation to better position the local airport to land the jet service to Dallas.

Garden City's boardings more than doubled in the first full year of service, and Dodge City also saw an increase in passengers by offering service to destinations different than Garden City.

The plan worked and brought proof of how two communities often considered competitors can work together in ways that benefit the region as a whole.