Airport officials happy after Texas talks |

Airport officials happy after Texas talks

Michael Schneider

Empty handed but filled with expressions of optimism, a delegation of municipal leaders returned from Texas where they’d met with commercial airlines to discuss service to Lake Tahoe Airport.

South Lake Tahoe City Council member Tom Davis said airlines are interested in serving Lake Tahoe but December’s deadline for establishing service may be too optimistic.

“There’s still a ways to go, but we’re talking,” Davis said from his business office Wednesday. “I think we’re still a year away.”

The delegation included Airport Commissioner Keith Swanson, Chamber Executive Director Duane Wallace, Embassy Suites Executive Knud Svendsen, Davis and city-hired airport marketer Vesta Rea-Gaubert and South Lake Tahoe City Manager Kerry Miller. The group met with both American and Continental Airlines.

Wallace said he was encouraged by both the airport discussions as well as Rea-Gaubert’s prowess with the airlines.

“It was obvious Vesta knows who she says she knows and it’s obvious they know her and welcomed her,” Wallace said.

Davis said American Airlines told city representatives Lake Tahoe is their second most requested ski destination behind Vail, Colo. The airline offers a package to fly customers to Reno to get to Tahoe. “So the demand is there,” Davis said.

Davis said word is spreading among the airline industry that Tahoe wants an airline. Also, he said the delegation is spreading the word that the city is undertaking various redevelopment projects that would enhance its marketability.

“We thought we’d get the typical ‘Hi, sorry, we don’t want that,’ but we didn’t,” Davis said. “There’s a heightened interest in Lake Tahoe.”

“It’s clear to me the right partner will come along,” Wallace said. “It’s just a matter of what the deal will look like.”

Wallace said the Lake Tahoe Airport probably will have to provide airlines with a subsidy for service. Rea-Gaubert earlier this year told the City Council she would rather see seat guarantees rather than subsidies for service.

Not content to see what happens with the latest trip, Assistant Airport Manager Janis Brand, Davis and other members of the local business community will travel to Seattle next Wednesday to meet with Horizon Air executives.

Also, Rea-Gaubert is setting up a meeting with Delta Airlines, according to Davis.

Rea-Gaubert was originally contracted to provide the airport with a commercial airline by December.

Davis said the earliest he could likely envision airline service would be June 1999. The last airline here, Reno Air, left town during spring 1996.

While it is not known if any of these efforts will actually pay off with an airline serving the Lake Tahoe Airport, Davis was sure of one thing.

“We’re getting a lot better at our presentations,” he said.

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