Inyokern airport loses commercial air service

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Inyokern airport loses commercial air serviceAt press time the News Review learned that residents will be losing commercial airline service out of Inyokern Airport when United Express discontinues local flights on Nov. 4.

According to IYK CEO Scott Seymour, he hopes the loss will be temporary.

“ I have already reached out to four other airlines, and we are actively pursuing options to restore service,” said Seymour.

He said that this is only the second time since 1950 that the local airport has been without commercial service. IYK lost service for about seven months in the 1990s in order to make the transition from visual flight to instrumentation flight rules.

Seymour estimated that between local United employees and TSA agents, the loss will impact about 20 jobs.

Although United officials did not return calls by press time, Seymour said that his contacts cited a decline in ridership for the company’s decision to pull the plug on the local service.

He announced earlier this year that the decline had already cost the airport about $850,000 annually, since the newest numbers dropped the FAA entitlements from $1 million to $150,000 a year.

For years residents have been trying to negotiate a lower business-class rate out of IYK, which recently hit its highest average between $1,300 and $1,700 per ticket for a trip to Washington, D.C.

According to Seymour, that ticket out of Inyokern was the highest cost per mile of any airline ticket in the United States. “Having the most expensive ticket is not the kind of distinction you want.”

Anecdotal data suggests that travelers began flying out of LAX and Ontario for business to save $1,000 or more per seat.

United just recently announced new terminal fares as low as $300 per ticket, although the reduced price would not have taken effect until October.

Locals speculate that United may have dropped the price to test whether that would drive up travel to sustainable volumes before making the decision to drop service altogether.

“Even though our ridership has dropped, I think this valley can support enough travel at a fair price to make this an enticing location to offer service,” said Seymour.

“You don’t have airline service this long in an unsustainable market. The problem was that United priced themselves out of the market.”

Story First Published: 2013-09-18