The Garden City Telegram
9/25/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Flight plan

Regional air service deal puts cities on right path.

During his recent State of the City address, Garden City Mayor David Crase touched on a number of positive developments.

One in particular brought proof of the importance of southwest Kansas communities working together.

Commercial airline patronage at area airports has taken off, thanks to a new arrangement between Garden City and Dodge City.

As part of a plan to maintain and improve local commercial air service, Garden City officials reached out to their counterparts in Dodge City last year to land support for a deal that would create regional service for western Kansas out of Garden City Regional Airport.

The request was for Dodge City to forego at least part of that city's Essential Air Service funds, and combine those dollars with Garden City's allocation to better position the local airport to land the more costly jet service.

Garden City already had endorsed a plan to recommend to U.S. Department of Transportation officials that American Eagle provide service to Dallas on a 44-seat jet and replace Great Lakes Airlines service on a 19-seat turboprop aircraft.

Some in Dodge City were reluctant. After more consideration, however, they signed on and the plan took flight.

As a result, American Eagle's air service to Dallas/Fort Worth brought a significant increase in enplanements for Garden City. The airport reached the coveted 10,000-passenger goal in August and is on pace to reach 18,000 this year.

Hitting the 10,000-passenger threshold puts the city in line for significant funding needed for airport maintenance and repairs. Before this year, reaching the goal was a struggle.

And Garden City wasn't alone in seeing improvement. Ridership in Dodge City reportedly rose (ditto for Liberal), in part because they now offer different destinations than Garden City.

Give credit to Garden City and Dodge City for working together on the plan. Both communities and the region as a whole appear better off, proof of how cooperation can pay off when communities choose to sell and build on their collective strength.

All cities in southwest Kansas should take notice, and pursue partnerships that better position the region for future viability and growth.