Natrona Commissioners Pull $600K For Air Guarantee, Likely To Lose SLC Flight

After convincing the city of Casper in April to pony up $400,000 to guarantee air service to Salt Lake City, the Natrona County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday pulled it’s $600,000 contribution.

Dale Killingbeck

June 20, 20245 min read

Casper is likely to lose its daily Delta SkyWest flight to Salt Lake City after the Natrona County Commission voted to pull $600,000 in air guarantee money.
Casper is likely to lose its daily Delta SkyWest flight to Salt Lake City after the Natrona County Commission voted to pull $600,000 in air guarantee money. (Casper/Natrona International Airport via Facebook)

CASPER — The off-again, on-again roller coaster of local money to guarantee Delta Airlines service out of the Casper/Natrona County International Airport may be grounded for good.

The Casper/Natrona County International Airport may be down to one airline option and destination in the near future after the Natrona County Commissioners voted Tuesday to pull back a May 7 decision to contribute $600,000 to extend the SkyWest Delta connection flight between Casper and Salt Lake City from July 1 through June 30, 2025.

Natrona County Commission Chairman Peter Nicolaysen said the county’s airport board recommended Monday that the county commission withdraw its funding for the minimum revenue guarantee payment (MRG).

“My understanding is that the airport board made its recommendation after considering the availability of funding from various sources, the long-term viability of the Delta flight and the value proposition of the Salt Lake-Casper flight,” Nicolaysen said.

He said based on the recommendation, it seemed appropriate to withdraw the county’s Air Service Enhancement Program grant application to the Wyoming Aeronautics Commission as well as the county’s share of funding.

Oh, Yeah, The City …

The move to pull the Delta air guarantee money comes after the county pressured the city of Casper to buy into the program.

In April, the Casper City Council reluctantly gave the green light to $400,000 to keep the daily Delta SkyWest flight in response to the county saying it wouldn’t pay the full tab anymore.

At the time, Casper Vice Mayor Lisa Engebretsen said she shared the county’s concern that more entities in the region served by the airport weren’t contributing to the guarantee.

“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 at the April meeting she also has concerns, but that retaining two daily flights from the local airport would pay off in economic development.

“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.”

Casper Mayor Steve Cathey said Thursday that the city was caught by surprise by the airport board’s recommendation and will ask a representative to come to a future council session to explain the reasoning.

The $400,000 allocation for the MRG had just been approved in the city budget on Tuesday in the city meeting as the county was pulling its support at its meeting.

“No one from the airport board has contacted me about why it happened,” Cathey said. “I know Fly Casper Alliance had gone out and campaigned and gotten money from several of the surrounding communities and several of the businesses here in town — it kind of destroys some of the credibility of the people out trying to raise some of the money.”

Not Just The City

Under the terms of the May resolution, the city of Casper, Fly Casper Alliance and other companies had also agreed to help fund the MRG payment for the first time.

But the five-member county commission voted 4-0 Tuesday to rescind its grant application and funding. Nicolaysen did not vote.

Nicolaysen said his understanding was that the airport board looked at the size and type of aircraft not being cost effective, not even “breaking even,” and that there were no plans for that to change. He said ticket prices are another issue.

“You look at that and you think, why is that twice as much as the trip to Denver?” he said.

Commissioner Steven Freel said while the airline is still flying from Casper, that will likely change soon.

“Obviously, they are going to pull out of here without having the MRG,” he said. “I think we have shown over time that we’ve bent over backwards to keep Delta here, and we put more money towards them, and the prices keep going up or they change the way things are done.

“Unfortunately, we get to a point that you’ve got to stop the bleeding and if we end up losing something we end up losing it.”

All the commissioners said their hope is that another airline can be found to take the place of the Delta connection once it departs for good.

Commissioner Dallas Laird said he hoped the $600,000 can be repurposed for “bigger and better things.”

“In the meantime, United is here taking care of the people,” he said.

Nicolaysen said he appreciates the city, Fly Casper Alliance and the businesses that stepped up to support the MRG in May. He said he also put a “lot of weight” behind the airport board’s recommendation.

“They know how important that Delta flight is and how much that second carrier distinguishes the city of Casper and our airport form other communities in the state,” he said. “Hopefully, we will get another carrier.”

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at

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Dale Killingbeck


Killingbeck is glad to be back in journalism after working for 18 years in corporate communications with a health system in northern Michigan. He spent the previous 16 years working for newspapers in western Michigan in various roles.