Air Passengers May Reach 10,000

If ticket sales continue at the same pace they have since commercial flights began again in late August, Prescott enplanements will reach the magic number of 10,000 — the critical number needed for the City of Prescott to receive a significant increase in federal assistance.

That number could jump from the current under 10,000 passenger subsidy of about $150,000 to an estimated $3 million to $5 million, depending on the City’s new terminal project.

In late October, ticketed commercial passengers on flights aboard United Express operated by SkyWest Airlines were estimated to be just a few hundred shy of the 10,000 enplanements necessary to qualify for the increased subsidy by the end of 2018.

City of Prescott Airport Manager Robin Sobotta said ticket sales for flights to either Los Angeles or to Denver have far exceeded earlier expectations.

That demand convinced the airline to add a Saturday flight to Los Angeles to the schedule Dec. 1. Previously, the Los Angeles flights were six days a week, while the Denver flights were seven.

A SkyWest spokeswoman, Laura Watson, said, “We’ve certainly been happy with the launch.”

Sobotta told the press all indications are passenger numbers will continue to increase, perhaps to double or more than what they had been this past year.

Considerable credit is being given to the support provided by leaders in Prescott and the surrounding communities for their endorsement of increased commercial air traffic.

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli has been outspoken in saying Prescott has become a “destination, not a pass-through, for visitors.” He said he and other community leaders were confident that access to a major carrier, coupled with minimal local traffic, was an appealing factor when compared to tedious travel time to a distant congested airport. “And we have free parking,” Mengarelli said.

Another feature — the airport has been designated as Prescott Regional Airport-Ernest A. Love Field. This was a factor in fulfilling the federal requirement for Essential Air Service (EAS).

City staff report they are working with regional travel agencies to encourage them to have passengers book flights in and out of Prescott.

Concurrent with plans for increasing passenger travel are plans for the design and ultimate construction of a new airport terminal.

It is anticipated that preliminary design of a new airport terminal will be submitted near the end of the year. In mid-October, residents had a chance to give feedback to architectural consultants about what they liked in terminal design. Personnel from DWI Architects and Planners were represented by Executive Vice President Sandra Kukla. She told City personnel and the public that it was likely the complete construction design would be finished by late spring 2019.

Cost estimates are just that — estimates. Numbers range from $6 million to $8 million, depending on whether roads and parking also are included in construction figures.

The City hopes to break ground for a new terminal in the fourth quarter of 2019.