Supporters who are raising money to help land additional commercial flights in Butte are calling their organization “Fly Butte” and their campaign the “2019 Fly Butte Initiative.”
The five entities behind the effort — Headwaters RC&D, the Butte Local Development Corp., the Butte Chamber of Commerce, the Butte Convention and Visitors Bureau and Butte-Silver Bow local government — are working toward a strategic plan for recruiting and retaining airlines to and from Bert Mooney Airport in Butte.
They will kick off the campaign with a “Flight Night & Bites” event at 5:30 p.m. on June 20 at the airport. The public is invited.
Fly Butte will share information on the initiative, including a so-called “Minimum Flight Guarantee,” with a community-wide goal of bringing additional flights into Butte. The event will also serve as the first opportunity for individuals and businesses to contribute to the capital campaign.
Currently, SkyWest operates direct flights to and from Salt Lake City to Butte. United Airlines is bidding to take over that service and if it wins out, would switch the destination city to Denver.
But to reduce financial risks, any airline flying to a second destination from Butte would likely ask for what’s known in the industry as a minimum revenue guarantee — a commitment of funds to be set aside should a company lose money on the new flight.
In general, revenue guarantees are raised from a variety of sources, including Tourism Business Improvement Districts (TBIDs), major employers with a stake in air travel options, grants and sometimes individual private donations.
Butte’s TBID has committed $200,000 to a potential revenue guarantee, but it could cost far more than that, depending on the number of flights, when they are offered, and other factors.
Stephanie Sorini, executive director of the Butte Chamber of Commerce, said the capital campaign will be a great opportunity to increase the number of flights in and out of Butte and boost the local economy.
Joe Willauer, executive director of the BLDC and Headwaters, agreed.
“We not only welcome the opportunity for our local businesses to receive more visitors into Butte, but also the ability to diversify the travel options for our community,” he said. “After the terminal expansion and upgrades to the Bert Mooney Airport, we are excited about becoming Montana’s next major city to enter into an MRG (minimum revenue) process that will showcase our airport and community to travelers from even more destinations.”