POCATELLO — Officials with the Pocatello Regional Airport learned Tuesday they have missed out on a U.S. Department of Transportation grant to add direct service to Denver.
Airport Manager Alan Evans said 57 communities from 30 states applied for the grant, which was awarded to 18 airports.
Pocatello leaders had been optimistic about their application. They argued the flight would have filled a need for the FBI, which recently expanded its local data center and requires additional options for traveling to the East Coast.
Twin Falls received one of the grants and will add direct service to Denver. Furthermore, Pullman, Washington, received a grant, which will improve access to Denver for Northern Idaho residents.
“Idaho is being served fairly well this grant cycle, even though we didn’t get it here,” Evans said. “I don’t think we had any problem (with our grant) at all. We had a grant that was probably very similar to Twin Falls. I just think we had a lot of competition.”
During the summer, the city applied for the DOT’s $700,000 Small Community Air Service Development grant to subsidize direct service to Denver on a trial basis. The city offered to provide an $80,000 match.
Denver offers many flights to the East Coast through United, and the local flight would have accessed a critical transfer point. Evans estimates the grant funds would have supported a flight for up to a year and a half. He believes it would take up to two years for a flight to become self-sustaining.
The city hired an Atlanta consultant, Mead & Hunt, to conduct a demand study, which was included in the grant application.
The airport currently offers three daily flights to Salt Lake City International Airport, departing at 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. SkyWest provides the flight, in partnership with Delta Airlines.
The grant funds are used to compensate the service provider for any unfilled seats until the flight becomes self-sustaining.
Evans said he reiterated the need to serve the FBI to the airlines after learning the city was not awarded the grant. SkyWest Airlines would have provided the service on a contract basis for United Express.
“We’re going to continue to work with Skywest and American Airlines and see what we can do,” Evans said. “We feel that’s still our best spot to go.”