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The low-cost carrier is a necessary evil at the small-town airport that brings in passengers and profit even if the flip side is new fees and less parking.
A group of longtime pilots say the new commercial jet service at Ogden-Hinckley Airport is negatively affecting general aviation, but the city says the growing pains are necessary for the airport’s future.
In late September, the airport began commercial airline service between Ogden and Mesa, Ariz.
The new service is provided by Allegiant Air, a subsidiary of the Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Company, and offers flights twice weekly, on Thursday and Sunday.
Tom Christopulos, Ogden’s director of community and economic development, says the service is doing extremely well so far, with the flights averaging 92 percent of their maximum passenger capacity of 166.
But since the service began, some local pilots say general aviation, which is what the airport has been traditionally known for, has suffered.
“I’ve watched the Ogden Airport go through a transformation here over the last several months,” said Gary Kopecky, who said he has 52 years of experience in aviation, from the U.S. Air Force to the commercial side. “We have just four (commercial flights) a week, and it’s at the expense of general aviation.”
Kopecky said the commercial operation’s impact on general aviation includes tighter security restrictions and regulations imposed by the Transportation Security Administration, new fees for security badges and overnight parking, and a lack of parking.
The city council recently approved new fees, charging $20 to $50 for various types of security badges that must be renewed every year for $10. The airport will also begin charging $3.50 per night for overnight parking.
Kopecky said the new fees are especially hard to swallow, considering the city waived certain fees to bring Allegiant in.
“With all of the new fees we’re charged, I feel like I’m supporting them (Allegiant),” he said. “And I don’t like it.”
Dwight Burkes, a member of the Ogden Regional Airport Association, is also unhappy with the new fees.
“We just feel like these fees were imposed without going through proper procedure,” he said.
Christopulos said the new fees are comparable to other similar-sized airports across the country, like those in Provo, Idaho Falls, Boise, Casper, Wyo., and Fort Collins, Colo.
Christopulos said certain fees have been waived for Allegiant, but that’s part of the price of bringing them to the city, and the airline will help ensure the future of the airport.
“For a long time, we’ve addressed the cost of running the airport and the fact that it is highly subsidized,” he said. “Without having this additional means of revenue on site, it would be hard to continue to maintain and run the airport into the future.”
But the fees aren’t the only thing the local pilots are unhappy with.
Since the commercial flights have been leaving the airport, available parking has also become an issue.
“Parking is getting to be a real mess,” said J.R. Lundgreen, who has a hangar and two planes at the airport. “Everything now is taken up by (rental) cars and other airport cars.”
Christopulos said the pilots have a genuine beef with the parking, and the city is working on it.
“It’s a relatively good point,” he said. “We’re working on some redesign issues as we speak, and trying to figure out how to get more parking.”