Commercial air service is dead in Chico – when will the city start paying attention to the real airport users, the tenants?

15 Nov

Laura Urseny’s story on the airport in today’s ER was no surprise for anybody. While she tried to insert “a glimmer of hope”, she had to admit, it looks like the end for commercial service in Chico. 

I have to give her some credit – she actually sought out a couple of airline executives and put the question to them, and the second guy took her seriously enough to give her a good answer.

Last week I chatted with Jude Bricker, senior vice president of planning for Allegiant.

He said there’s not much interest in Chico. Actually, none.

Bricker went through issue after issue that Chico faces. Airlines are flying bigger planes, roughly in the 150- seat capacity, for cost efficiency. Chico would be hard pressed to fill that, even once a week, he said. Chico had issues filling the 30- seater that SkyWest flew in three times a week. “ We’re not in active negotiations (with Chico) and have no plans for service,” he told me.

What could we do to interest an airlines, I asked. A subsidy program or other incentive was the first thing he mentioned, and then some way to assure the airlines that passengers would come.

He mentioned Sacramento’s closeness as a hefty black mark against Chico.”

There it is – they’re using bigger planes now, just like I’ve said. Those planes not only need 150 passengers to fill them, they need a bigger runway to fly out of here. Chico has not updated their runway like Redding did only a few years ago. That’s how Redding stayed in the game. Chico was busy pilfering the now-red airport fund to pay down the pension deficit. 

And then there it is, these giant corporations want a subsidy to locate here.  Yes, the taxpayers would have to pay these airlines to come here to serve less than 20 percent of the population.  Even then, they only offer service once a week, and there we are again – if they don’t meet the needs of the public the public will go to Sacramento. 

Yes, there is an international airport an hour and a half down the road – Hellllloooooo!

Why Urseny or anybody would continue to pursue commercial air service out of Chico is beyond me. Selfish? Just plain stubborn? Desperate?  Yes, there is an elite little crowd here who expect the taxpayers to foot their luxury bills. 

Urseny keeps trying to prop up this horse cadaver, at first telling the reader about “a glimmer of hope”. In the end she admits, “wouldn’t it have made a great column for me to announce some positive airline news?”  So, now she’s making up news to make herself happy? How about reporting on what’s really going on at the airport – the tenants are complaining that the city is giving them poor leases. These are the people who keep the airport there at all, and the city has treated them poorly for years, giving them crap buildings, forcing them to make their own repairs, but giving them no assurance they won’t be kicked out for higher-paying tenants or have rent raised on themselves when they undertake those repairs. 

How many people would rent a house that needs a new roof, when the landlord told them they’d need to fix the roof themselves? I don’t think that’s legal. But the city let the Aero Union building fall to complete crap – one reason they left – and now the city will have the museum people raising the $200,000 necessary to fix the roof. 

Hey, have a good time out at the Air Museum, but I wouldn’t linger in there too long. 


2 Responses to “Commercial air service is dead in Chico – when will the city start paying attention to the real airport users, the tenants?”

  1. publius November 17, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

    The real money maker at the airport is the industrial park. The cities’ entire focus should be expanding and creating a climate of growth in the industrial park. I would love the city to spend less time looking for “management consultants” and more time focused on luring tech industry to build solid jobs and a future for our community.

    • Juanita Sumner November 18, 2015 at 6:29 am #

      Yes, I agree. I don’t really think of it as an airport but a business park that has air service. Which is a really great thing, people don’t seem to realize how important that is to our town’s economic picture.

      Not only do they have UPS and FedEX but my friend whose manufacturing business is located there uses his own plane to fly to other towns to buy supplies, sell his product, meet with clients, etc. Air service is so important to him, he’s actually gone with other plane-owner tenants to meet with management at other local airports to see if he’d rather have his business in Redding or even Willows. He has complained to me for years about the way he is treated by his landlord, the city of Chico. As soon as his youngest finishes high school he will think again about moving his business, which employs 26 people in high paying jobs. He is the only manufacturer in Northern California that provides this type of product, he has clients all over this area, in Chico, who depend on him.

      I do believe there needs to be a manager there, onsite, who understand the laws regarding airports and also can manage the property in a professional manner. One lady manages both Willows and Orland airports, and I’m going to wager her salary does not even approach that of Mark Orme, who currently mis-manages our airport. He’s way over his head, I don’t even think he’s qualified to manage our town. Dave Burkland took that job when the last airport manager left because he wanted to add $35,000 to his salary, and did so. I don’t know what the old airport manager was making, but Burkland claimed they’d save money that way. That was the beginning of using the airport fund to pay salaries/benefits for employees who’ve never even been on that side of town.

      AvPORTs, desperate to impress the council, is now talking about raising fees. Are they aware, this conversation has circled the airport commission like a floater for years and just won’t sink? One commission after another has talked about raising “tie down” fees for plane owners – one of their only sources of real revenue besides rent – and the plane owners said, “we can tie down in Willows and Redding, screw you.” In one year they lost 130 planes, according to staffer Debbie Collins.

      I’m assuming they mean raise rents too, and that’s not going over good.

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