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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.