United Airlines is cutting down its winter flights

Passenger numbers on SkyWest, with its hub in Salt Lake City, Utah, increased by 64.4 percent in May. There were a total of 2,114 passengers who boarded flights on SkyWest in the month of May. Yet this is not always good news for all airlines.

According to Bob Hooper, Yellowstone Regional Airport manager, at Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the YRA Joint Powers Board, the United Airlines will cease winter flights out of Cody in spite of the fact that the number of passengers taking flights on SkyWest have increased dramatically this year.

Reducing the number of off-season flights out of YRA has been on the radar of United for some time. The numbers even this time of year reflect the situation. United had 1,288 passengers fly out of Cody in May, which was an 8.7 percent decrease from the previous year.

Despite those down numbers, the overall outlook at the airport has been positive. Overall, the airport has seen increased business of 10.1 percent year to year. Only the airports in Cody and Jackson have shown growth this past year throughout the state of Wyoming. Record numbers of people have been coming through the gates since May 1.

In short, the airport becomes busier and busier, leaving United Airlines no choice but to drop its winter flights.

On the one hand, reports pertaining to the airport’s approval as an air attack command center for forest fires also are understood as boost-up signals given that there are three pilots and aircraft certified to the United States Forest Service to be used in fighting fires.

On the other hand, private planes also make up a good share of the increased growth at YRA. The Flying Dentists are coming into Cody for their convention during the last week of June, so runway space might be tight for that week.

Hooper also noted the personnel at YRA won’t be able to handle rebooking requests for reservations already made beyond those dates.

“United is going to go to just summer service starting later this year,” Hooper said. “The last flight out of Cody for the season will be on Oct. 29. United will now just offer flights from May to October.”

Hooper’s concern can be better understood when taking into account another indicator that tourists flying into YRA and then, renting cars has reached record proportions. It has been a very busy month of May for the rental car companies at the airport. For example, Avis, Hertz and Thrifty had a total of 2,777 rental days for the month. This was a whopping increase of 19.6 percent from the previous year.

“After a record month, we’re kind of settling down into a normal pattern, but it will still be a busy summer,” Hertz manager Corey Field said. “We have a full-time washer working hard to keep things moving and get the cars back on the lot.”

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