A McCall, Idaho-based air-charter and cargo service plans to initiate in May regular flights between Sandpoint and the cities of Boise and Seattle, launching the first-ever regular air-passenger service for the Bonner County town.
The company, McCall Aviation, will operate one round-trip flight to Boise and one to Seattle on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, says Rich Faletto, a member of a Sandpoint civic group that has been working to attract an airline to provide such a service. Faletto also is part owner of Windermere Resort Lifestyles Inc., a real estate brokerage located at Schweitzer Mountain Resort.
Round-trip tickets to both Boise and Seattle will cost $195, not including taxes and fees, and service will be provided using nine-seat Cessna aircraft, Faletto says. The tentative schedule has McCalls Seattle-bound flight leaving from Sandpoint at 9 a.m., and returning from Seattle at 1:30 p.m. each of the four days. The Boise flight leaves Sandpoint in the afternoon, at 4 p.m., and returns from Boise at 7:30 a.m.
The civic group, the Sandpoint Air Service Committee of the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, presold more than $250,000 worth of vouchers for the flights as a tool to entice McCall Aviation to initiate service, Faletto says. Those sales were made in the form of pledges to buy books of 12 round-trip vouchers, and the buyers will be asked to pay for all of their vouchers on about April 1, he says. If McCall decides to suspend service from Sandpoint, the airline has agreed to give 30 days notice, so that buyers will have an opportunity to use their vouchers, he says.
We had proposals from three different carriers to provide the service, and the committee chose McCall Aviation because of its marketing plan, Faletto says.
Plus, McCall is in an aggressive expansion mode, he says. McCall Aviation was founded in 1976 and has a fleet of 12 aircraft, which the company mostly uses for back-country charters in Idaho and Montana, says Dan Scott, president of the company.
McCall had been looking for some time for a regularly-scheduled commuter service to offset the seasonality of its other work, Scott says.
Were definitely looking to expand and grow our business, he says.
A building at Sandpoint Airport initially will be used as a passenger terminal for the flights, but Bonner County, which operates the airport, has agreed to build a permanent passenger facility at some later date, Faletto says. Other improvements to the airport already are under way, including installation of wildlife fences and some tree removal, he says.
In addition, a new navigational system will be installed at the airport in June, which was a key element in bringing regular passenger service there, he says.
Faletto says that an air linkage between Sandpoint and the metropolitan areas of Seattle and Boise should boost tourism and economic development in Bonner County.
The director of the Bonner County Economic Development Corp. has told us that in their recruiting trips, companies generally ask them about five questions, and invariably the third question is, Do you have air service? Faletto says. Thats important for managers to travel, and also in order to fly in parts and materials.
The service also could help residential developments at Schweitzer and at Hidden Lakes Golf Resort, both of which are near Sandpoint, he adds.
We are aware that there are over 340 people in the greater Seattle area that own second homes here in the Sandpoint area, and its going to make their travel here to their second homes much more convenient, he says.
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