Reno airport gets new carrier |

Reno airport gets new carrier

Lake Tahoe tourism officials have high hopes that skiers will take advantage of a new air link to Atlanta and Kansas City, Mo.

Vanguard Airlines announced plans for flights to begin Aug. 12 at Reno/Tahoe International Airport. Vanguard’s MD-87s has seats for up to 100 coach passengers plus 12 business-class seats.

The introductory fare will be $189 one way to Kansas City with no advance purchase. The new agreement includes a same-plane connection to Atlanta.

Delta Airlines also flies from Reno to Atlanta – one of the busiest and largest airport hubs in the nation – through connecting flights.

“(Atlanta has) been high on our radar screen in Tahoe,” Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority spokesman Justin Yax said, referring to the overall population and number of skiers.

Major cities in the Southeast such as Miami tout large ski clubs. Air service is key to getting those skiers to Tahoe.

“And when they do go skiing, they go for 10 days. That means they go to our restaurants and shop in our stores,” Yax said.

A $175,000 advertising campaign will start in Kansas City next month. Carl Ribaudo, who serves on the committee that secured the deal, thinks even more opportunity may be found in cities with air links to Kansas City, including Pittsburgh, New York City, Chicago, Dallas and Austin, Texas.

“We can tap into San Francisco all we want. But if we’re going to increase the market, we’re going to have to start looking to the east,” said Howard Putnam, air service task force chairman. Putnam, who lives in Reno, was the former Southwest Airlines president.

The first of its kind at the northern Nevada airport, the deal with the Kansas City-based economy-fare airline will trade about a $1 million in promotional support and waivers on operating expenses for an estimated 60,000 passengers a year the carrier may transport between the two cities, the Washoe County Airport Authority reported Wednesday.

No direct cash subsidies were offered.

“The market analysis was critical in securing the commitment from Vanguard in coming to Reno/Tahoe,” airport authority Executive Director Krys Bart said. “Vanguard was impressed with our region’s improvements and more importantly by the commitment from our tourism and business community in making it work.”

A marketing collective called the Airport’s Air Service Task Force secured the funding mechanism to boost passenger counts at the airport, which has seen less traffic since American Airlines bought Reno Air about two years ago.

The Tahoe Douglas Visitors Authority chipped in $200,000 and Ski Lake Tahoe – a consortium of six primary ski resorts in the basin – threw in 1,200 lift tickets to support the inaugural effort.

The airport task force and community partners developed a cooperative regional marketing program supporting the new air service. It includes advertising, public relations, advanced ticket-purchase programs and airport incentives.

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