Casper Council Reluctantly OK $400,000 To Keep Daily SkyWest Flight

Casper City Council on Tuesday reluctantly agreed to commit to up to $400,000 as the city’s contribution to keep SkyWest Airline’s daily flight to Salt Lake City after the county said it won’t pick up the full tab anymore.

Dale Killingbeck

April 10, 20245 min read

Travelers move through the security checkpoint at the Casper/Natrona International Airport.
Travelers move through the security checkpoint at the Casper/Natrona International Airport. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

CASPER — A “bad medicine” metaphor and the potential for economic development in the future helped the Casper City Council swallow a bitter pill Tuesday and approve hundreds of thousands of dollars for its share of guaranteeing continued air service to the local airport.

The council gave a thumbs up at a work session to spending up to $400,000 for the city’s portion of a minimum revenue guarantee (MRG) payment to SkyWest Airlines. That payment pledge will help ensure the continuation of a daily SkyWest-Delta connection flight to and from Salt Lake City.

Councilmembers listened to a presentation from Tassma Powers of Fly Casper Alliance, who told them the alliance was asking for a commitment for the last half of 2024 as the state considers its budget and own contribution.

“Other places in the state have a shared burden and it varies between counties and cities and other municipalities,” Powers said. “It is based on that that we are here to ask you to significantly contribute to the next MRG. We are asking for $400,000.”

That contribution will be added to a likely Natrona County payment as well as money from the state.

Natrona County commissioners recently agreed to pay up to $650,700 for the first six months of this year and the state’s portion is up to $433,800 for the airline’s estimated $1.08 million guarantee needed for the Salt Lake City flight through June 30.

While they eventually gave the OK to the expense, commissioners also said they would likely not approve another payment without other entities in the region paying as well.

Casper/Natrona County International Airport Director Glenn Januska told the council that keeping the flight makes the region more attractive for landing the Reno Air Races and other economic development projects that are in the works.

Casper City Council reluctantly agreed to pay up to $400,000 for the last half of 2024 to help keep a SkyWest Delta Connection flight between Casper and Salt Lake City flying.
Casper City Council reluctantly agreed to pay up to $400,000 for the last half of 2024 to help keep a SkyWest Delta Connection flight between Casper and Salt Lake City flying. (Dale Killingbeck, Cowboy State Daily)

Some Frustration

Casper Vice Mayor Lisa Engebretsen said she didn’t like that other local municipalities are not chipping in, either.

“I am a little frustrated that we have no buy-in from the surrounding municipalities in Natrona County,” she said. “We struggle to get our potholes filled. … It seems we should have more buy-in to get every municipality involved. I am very frustrated with this.”

Councilmember Gena Jensen said she’s optimistic that retaining not only one daily flight, but a second will eventually lead to more economic development and possibly more airlines considering the Casper market.

“It stinks, like bad medicine going down,” Jensen said of having to pay air guarantees. “It’s a hard thing to swallow, but I think overall it is going to pay back 10-fold.”

Councilmember Amber Pollock said she agrees the region is seeing positive economic development with the Wyo Sports Ranch and other projects. She also said the council shouldn’t be too hard on other municipalities for not paying into the guarantee if Casper also isn’t.

“We also haven’t contributed to the MRG yet. So, I don’t want to pat ourselves on the back too much,” she said. “When the final action comes, I hope that sets that example and shows a broader mind.”

Mayor Steve Cathey and councilmembers Kyle Gamroth, Brandy Haskins, Michael Bond and Jai-Ayla Sutherland also expressed degrees of concern over the payment, but gave their approval. Councilman Ray Pacheco did not attend the meeting.

City Manager Carter Napier said he would recommend that in the fiscal year 2025 budget, the $400,000 be a direct distribution and not through the general fund. He also said he hopes the state will be open to changes in the ratio of the MRG payments if the payments continue to extend.

The state already takes 69% off the top of all the sales tax dollars generated locally, Napier said.

“My hope would be that we could have a larger discussion about inverting that partnership where localities are not as exposed and perhaps the MRG becomes a little more sustainable over time, if indeed it’s going to be a feature of our economic landscape,” he said.

Economic Return

Powers reminded the council before their final discussion and thumbs-up vote that a return-on-investment study conducted by the Wyoming Department of Aeronautics Division from July 2022 through June 2023 of the Delta flight between Casper and Salt Lake City showed it contributed more than $11 million to the economy of Natrona County.

“We continue as an alliance to work on those medium and long-term solutions to try and back-fill the need for this MRG, but in the meantime we are trying to be proactive and deal with this,” she said. “I am likewise disappointed that the only receptive council is yours. We are going to ask the other municipalities again, but we haven’t been very successful thus far.”

Information provided by the Fly Casper Alliance showed that in 2023, 85,475 total passengers used Casper/Natrona County International Airport, up 11,722 passengers from 2022. Those numbers were still below the 98,531 passengers who flew through the airport in 2019 prior to the pandemic.

In Wyoming, the Fly Casper Alliance reported that all airports receive an MRG request. Cheyenne, Jackson, Riverton, Lander, Rock Springs, Green River, Sheridan and Buffalo all participate in guarantees to keep flights at their respective airports.

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at

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Dale Killingbeck