The number of people who hopped on a plane in Los Angeles and flew to Mammoth came in higher than expected this winter, the first season since commercial air service returned to Mammoth.
After the environmental lawsuit, the changed plans, and the $30 million judgment against the Town over a condo development at the Airport, the actual return of commercial air service to Mammoth appears to be a success.
For this first winter of Horizon air service to the Mammoth Airport, officials had projected that the planes would be filled to 58% capacity over the course of the four month season. When the final numbers came in, Town officials report that the flights ran at 69% full. The highest monthly capacity was 89% for the two weeks of December after flights started December 18th. Perhaps due to the dry weather that month, January was the low month for capacity at 61%, but the capacity grew steadily through April. February ran 67%, with March up to 69% full.
Town officials call these higher than expected final bookings, encouraging, and say that this is a very good start considering the recession. 69% capacity for this first season, is higher than projections for next year. The second season was expected to reach 65% capacity, with the third year at 82%.
A Horizon Air spokesperson said that the airline was pleased with the service this year and said that the company had already reserved a plane for service to begin again next December.
With people taking the flights, Howard Pickett with Mammoth Mountain Ski Area reports that the company is ecstatic, with the high passenger loads, saying that the first year went exceptionally well.
This past year, Pickett explained, staff did not have the air service locked in until July which limited the time to market the flights. With more time this year, he expects that more advance tickets will be sold.
Mammoth Mountain does offer a subsidy to ensure Horizon makes money on the flights. While he couldnt go into detailed numbers, Pickett says that the Ski Area ended up paying less then half what had been budgeted for the flights.
Right now the plan is to expand service next year. Negotiations with Horizon to add a second daily flight are ongoing, and there is also work afoot to bring in Northern California skiers by adding flights from San Jose.