Reliable Air Service

Identified Problems

1. The Mammoth lakes Community has yet to completely buy into supporting a successful and robust local airport.

  • A successful airport is important not only to our future economic vitality as a destination resort, but also to quality of life and economic sustainability for local residents.

  • A component of all regional airlines is the payment of airport subsidies. Many major metropolitan airports also pay subsidies. Subsidy payments will always be a reality for our small, remote, regional airport. The false narrative that our airport will ever achieve overall “revenue neutral” status needs to be dispelled. If particular flight patterns become revenue neutral, then that particular subsidy should be rolled into another flight offering. The dollars destination visitors spend in the vacation destinations greatly exceeds the amount of money spent to bring them to that location.
  • We need to expand the reach of our flight offerings. Giving our California visitors a variety of travel options to reach our destination is a great thing and flights from LA, San Diego, and San Francisco are obvious slam-dunks. However, we need to diversify our resort business model and start offering out of state travelers the ability to reach Mammoth and experience its’ greatness.

2.  Our destination does not currently have an acceptable default plan for cancelled flights.

  • Our airport is one of the most convenient airports in ski country when the flight lands. However, we are in serious need of an acceptable backup plan for cancelled flights.
  • From John Urdi (MLT): From Mid April to Mid November, there were 11 flights canceled out of a total of 181. Three of those days were due to smoke from the Aspen Fire. He said that they were “all fairly peak days and all fairly full flights.” Then he said this: “We have been seeing a slightly abnormal cancellation so far this winter – much of which has to do with all of the flight issues around the country effecting aircraft and available crew but we are working on mitigating it as much as possible.”

  • Re-routing clients to LA, San Diego, or San Francisco and leaving them to their own devices is not an acceptable default plan. Often  the location the guest is re-routed to is the same distance or even farther away than their original boarding location. Clients that are re-routed to San Francisco are not even on the same side of the Sierra. Rental cars are sometimes not available and are cost prohibitive for many patrons of cancelled flights. The few transportation offerings we currently have are not sufficient to accommodate entire cancelled flights. This leaves clients with a bad taste in their mouth and can truly tarnish their experience at our destination.


3.  Our airport status does limit the type of planes that can fly here, so we need to be realistic with how that fact impacts our airline carrier choices and flight pattern offerings.

4.  The FAA is a force to be reckoned with and can sometimes operate as a “moving target.”  We need to continue to engage in open and consistent dialogue with the FAA and adhere to their regulations, restrictions and suggestions.

Potential Solutions

  1. Expanding our flight offerings to include Las Vegas, Denver, Reno, Seattle, SLC or Phoenix is the first step in the right direction to diversifying our business model as a resort.  Offering direct flights from any/all of these cities will open our destination up to the rest of the country because all of these locations are major western us flight hubs.  Las Vegas and Denver were already announced as flight offerings for the 2013-14 ski season and our resort took a step in the wrong direction by cancelling those flight offerings.  In the past we have also already offered flights from Reno and Seattle.  Seattle is a great market for Mammoth to expand into.  Reno is another major western US flight hub and could provide a critical, viable backup plan for cancelled Mammoth flights.

Bishop Airport (KBIH)

  • Adding Bishop or Reno as cancelled flight back up plans is critical to the overall success of our airport. Bishop is clearly the best case scenario and we need to continue to engage with their Public Works Director (name?) and Airport Staff to explore the possibility of this option and the timeline for execution.  In the meantime, Reno is a viable alternative.  It is already a major western US hub and has great reliability for landing flights.  Reno is only a 3 hour trip from Mammoth and essentially requires travel on one road.  It is on the same side of the Sierra.  It already houses an extensive fleet of rental cars.  It already has cheap regional transit offerings between Reno and Mammoth and we would need to just explore expanding these shuttle offerings and how that would be financed.
  • There is certainly a pervasive perception that animosity exists between Bishop and Mammoth and that fact alone will prohibit the two towns from ever working together or flight planning. We have found this perception to be untrue and feel that a public statement or newspaper article from Bishop airport higher-ups regarding this rumor would go a long way in changing public perception.


There is a “Cancelled Flight” rack card, but it is only used at MMH. It offers people discounts (not free) on stays, meals, etc. It also waives the Town’s portion of a car rental so it isn’t AS ridiculous to rent one way if people decide to drive to LA.

Our Chamber of Commerce should work in conjunction with theirs to cross-promote. Gaining buy in from the business communities in both places can positively impact the economic vitality of both towns.

Apparently a list exists of all the private pilots in striking distance of Mammoth and this is a sector we should continue to market to.

Bishop Airport as a back up

Sierra Business Counsel commissioned a study that stated that the airport should be in Bishop due to its elevation. They say Rusty buried it (probably due to the fact that Rusty wanted 757s to fly here).

What is the most cost effective way of having a default plan?  Bishop’s airport is called Eastern Sierra Regional Airport (ESRA) and is technically considered a “general aviation facility.”

From an Inyo Register article:

The term “general aviation” applies to the operation of civilian aircraft for purposes other than commercial passenger transport, including personal, business and instructional flying. Many of these pilots – at present more than 60 (with plenty more on a waiting list) – rent hangar space at the airport.But the ESRA also hosts its fair share of charter flights – planes transporting either eager tourists to the Eastern Sierra or business executive and professionals who would rather shell out the additional money for a quick flight than lose valuable time to a five to 10-hour drive. Each winter sees about a couple dozen or more charter flights bound for the Mammoth-Yosemite Airport diverted to the ESRA because of inclement weather. “One night we had 10 aircraft on the field at once and 50 passengers in the terminal,” Babione said. “They started coming in around quitting time and were here until 9 at night until we could arrange enough ground transportation to Mammoth.”

I think people got caught up in having 757s land in Bishop. That is not the purpose of having Bishop as a back up. Clearly, Bishop has been a back up for flights of smaller planes in the past, and is fully capable of handling planes that can’t land in Mammoth. What needs to be done to make this official?
From Inyo County Public Works director, Clint Quitter

Bishop’s airport lease changed in 2010 that would accommodate airport/county officials to apply for grants to update the airport.

He’s making a presentation sometime in January to the Inyo Board of Supervisors to keep them up to date and interested in pushing to improve Bishop and make it appropriate for commercial flights.

Said he would provide me with their Airport Master Plan.

He said that being a back up to Mammoth is in their interest and said it would make sense for both counties.

He’s new to the area and doesn’t have any opinions on the Mammoth-Bishop relationship.

(note: Aleks has a lot of questions put it with him about cost, the state of grant applications, etc and is waiting for his responses.)


Other issues

They have looked into switching to other airlines, but no one, including SW, is interested until the small planes we are using now are full every flight.
Many flights are being cancelled do to the low ceiling.  In May, Alaska will have new instruments that get the ceiling down to 800 feet from 1400 feet.

Alaska is probably the right airline for now, but the pricing structure is weird and planes are going up half full at times. Why?
Subsection in Econ Devt sec on its reliability including reliability on pricing and not the roulette wheel on what it’s going to cost to fly in and out of here.Stabilization before expansion.
Diversity of flight options.  MMH announced we were going to have Denver and Vegas and then pulled them. Jackson Hole has 12 direct flights from 12 cities and was just voted the  No 1 ski resort airport.


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