By Deb Murphy
Mammoth Lakes Tourism will be looking to Bishop Airport for reliable air service to bring the legions of skiers and nature-seekers to its mountains.
John Urdi, executive director, told last Friday’s meeting of the Eastern Sierra Council of Governments the Mammoth Airport had a 14.5-percent cancellation rate last winter. The hope is once Bishop Airport is ready to take on commercial air service late next year, visitors to Mammoth will have a better guarantee they’ll actually be able to get there.
The major question has been subsidies to airlines flying into Bishop. Would Mammoth merchants be willing to see their Tourism Business Improvement District monies sent to Bishop? The answer from Urdi was “yes,” as long as it was legal.
According to Urdi, MLT and Mammoth Mountain pony up subsidies during the ski season with Mammoth paying subsidies to compensate the airlines for empty seats during the summer months. Approximately 38-percent of the TBID monies go into those subsidies, with a $1.5 million cap.
The advantage of the Bishop facility would be greater reliability and a capacity to land larger aircraft. Urdi and MLT want to go after markets in New York and Boston which require bigger planes to make the transcontinental flight.
According to Urdi, the MLT board agreed with the plan. Intercept surveys would be taken to determine how many of the passengers landing in Bishop were headed up the mountain.
The only hang-up, which could postpone that October 2020 date when Bishop will be officially open to commercial service, is a legal question. Can TBID money collected in Mammoth be spent in Bishop?
The question was sent off to the state Attorney General. Urdi did not anticipate a quick answer.