By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Flights in and out of Cody’s Yellowstone Regional Airport will be reduced by nearly half this summer, due to a shortage of available pilots.
Airport Manager Aaron Buck said a shortage of pilots has caused Delta Airlines to cancel all of its planned flights between Cody and Salt Lake City, leaving only United Airlines and its flights to and from Denver as the only service to the airport.
“We will have four flights a day that are coming in, and four flights out,” Buck told Cowboy State Daily. “And then in July, it looks like there’ll be some days that are four and some days that are just three.”
This summer’s schedule will be significantly less active than what the airport has seen in the past.
“You know, last year we had seven flights a day on Saturdays,” Buck said. “We won’t have anything close to that this year.”
Last summer, Delta offered up to two flights a day between Cody and Salt Lake from early May to October, making up around 25% of YRA’s total flights.
“It’s going to be about 400 seats less per week that we get to get in,” said Buck. “So if you think about it that way, rather than just flights, you know, it’s about 400 less seats during that time frame during August and July.”
The airline announced in January that it was going to cut back its flights by 25%, due to pandemic-related staffing issues that saw thousands of Delta pilots take early retirement, as well as disruptions caused by training schedules.
YRA has seen record numbers of enplanements so far this year – January, February and March saw the highest number of travelers ever flying out of Cody’s airport; 2,055, 2,044 and 2,623, respectively.
As a result, Delta’s cancellation comes as a blow, Buck said.
“What’s unfortunate about it so far, is January, February, March, April, have all been up,” he said. “And so we’re having a banner year, but we don’t have a banner year of flights in the summer.”
Buck pointed out that the cancellation of daily flights between Cody and Salt Lake City will have a negative economic impact.
“It will greatly affect the income of the airport directly,” he said. “It also will affect the income of the community a little bit as far as the number of people. I mean, 400 less people a week that can get access to Cody through the airport.”
A factor working in Cody’s favor, however, is the fact that the Jackson airport will be closed through the middle of June for runway repairs – so some travelers who would have flown into Jackson will be coming to Cody instead.
“They added one flight a day to us that would have been going to Jackson during that time,” Buck said. “They have a significant runway closure that’s going on there. But yeah, we have an extra flight a day during Ma, because of that.
“So we’re still going to have a really strong April and a really strong May, and even a really strong June compared to last year,” he continued. “Some of the extra flights that we’re missing are going to be in our July, August timeframe.”
Ryan Hauck, Executive Director for the Park County Travel Council, said the pilot shortage is just another impact that the COVID pandemic has had on the country’s economy.
“That’s the next ripple effect from what COVID did,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “First, it was no travel, then last year, it was staffing, and this year, it is lack of pilots.”
But Hauck pointed out that most people come to Cody by car, rather than plane, so the lack of plane traffic may not have much of an effect on the local businesses that rely on tourism.
“Luckily for us, we have always been a very heavy drive market,” he said. “So I will tell you, talking with Yellowstone, talking with the hoteliers here, demand is still coming. We are still on point to have an amazing year this year.”
And Buck noted that next year should be back to normal when it comes to airline traffic in Cody.
“I don’t imagine that we’ll have trouble getting it back once there’s pilots to fly on planes,” he said.