United Airlines is expected to pass on a change in their rates later today (Wednesday), and the manager at Chan Gurney Airport in Yankton is hoping it will mean more people flying out of Yankton.
"United has told us the new fares are going to be better, but we don't know yet what that means," Jake Hoffner said following a meeting with Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) and a gathering of city and chamber leaders. "The rates should be more competitive and that should help increase boardings."
United Express currently offers flights to Minneapolis and Denver. Hoffner said they currently charge $98 for a one way ticket to the Twin Cities, which he said is still too high.
"Ideally we would like to get it down to around $150 for a round trip flight to Minneapolis. That would be ideal," Hoffner said. "I really think about $75 to $80 for a one way ticket to Minneapolis would be more than fair and would bring back a lot of people who flew to the Cities for a weekend."
Since air service resumed to Yankton this summer, boardings have been rising slowly, but could use some extra promotion to get the numbers back to where they were before the service was cut back last year, he said.
"Numbers are still not where we want them to be, but we're hoping to get them back up there with some promotions and other packages," Hoffner said.
Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee Member Don Smith said some members of the committee are working to put together a promotion to encourage more Yankton residents to fly out of Chan Gurney Airport, rather than Sioux Falls, Sioux City or Omaha.
"We've talked to Great Lakes (Aviation) about some packages we'll be working on. We should have something put together very soon," Smith said.
Johnson, who was meeting with Yankton residents to discuss transportation issues, questioned whether Sioux Falls or Sioux City was the city's main competition for flyers.
"Our main competition depends on the rates," said Transportation Committee member Skip Vanderhule. "I'd say people are driving out of here to both cities and to Omaha. It all depends on how many people are flying and what the fares are at the time."
Hoffner told Johnson air service is an important part of the transportation offerings in Yankton and said more people will probably start to take advantage of the daily flights to Minneapolis or Denver.
"We want to keep the service, there's no doubt about that. We know the people who use it are so thankful it's here, especially with the winter months coming."
Johnson also touched on other issues involving the Yankton community, including Meridian Bridge and the relocation of the US Post Office.
Discussion on the subjects included:
* Johnson said he's confident Congress will eventually come through with the money to replace Meridian Bridge.
"We're going to win this battle and we'll come out of it with money for Yankton," Johnson said.
He said it will be important to have Congress approve some kind of transportation program.
"The Senate will probably approve a 3-6 month bill to get something to the President to keep transportation funded through the winter months," he said.
* Yankton City Manager Eric Swanson and Mayor Brad Olson said they are disappointed in the response they have received from Postal Service officials concerning the site for a new Post Office.
"I've been a little disappointed in the lack of sensitivity on the part of the postal officials," Olson said.
He pointed out that a postal official commented that the 250 people who attended a recent public hearing represented about 1 percent of the city's population. They said that means that since the other 99 percent did not show up, "they must feel OK about the 23rd Street location."
Olson said most people feel a downtown location would better fit the city's needs, but said there is some disagreement over what constitutes downtown.
The city is lobbying for a post office at the intersection of Second and Fourth Streets because it's land the city already owns, has adequate traffic flow and would help to make that area and entrance to the community, "a little more presentable," Olson said.
As talks about the location of a new facility continues, Swanson said he wants to see both sides work together to reach a friendly agreement to make a statement of cooperation.
Olson said, "We will do just about whatever t takes to work with postal authorities."
Copyright 1997 The Press & Dakotan