Modesto officials come up with odd plan to regain air service to Los Angeles

A consultant retained by the city of Modesto, Calif. is collecting pledges from local fliers and businesses who would be willing to commit to buy plane tickets if an airline started new service to Los Angeles, the Modesto Bee reported this week. 

The consultant — Sixel Consulting Group — wants to obtain non-binding commitments from people and corporations to spend a total of $1 million on the proposed new air service. Sixel, apparently, would then go to an airline, show it the commitments and persuade it to start new service.

The Bee says Sixel only gets paid if it gets new service. And according to the Bee, this is a possibility:

The pledges are not binding, but they would demonstrate the region’s commitment to the service. Sixel Consulting Group – the city’s consultant – says it has an understanding with a major carrier that if it can collect the $1 million in pledges, the carrier will start the Los Angeles flights.

 

This is an odd arrangement, and I can’t say I understand it. Presumably, an airline would be in this market if it made sense.  I’m not sure why signatures matter.

The story notes that Modesto had service to Los Angeles on Skywest between 2006 and 2008, when it was cut because it was not profitable. The Bee says the flights “often were full” but as readers of this blog know, full does not equate to profitability. Modesto does still have Skywest service (marketed as United Express) to San Francisco.

Having not lived in a small California city, I suppose I don’t have a good understanding of how important these flights are to local communities. But the story suggests Los Angeles service would be a big deal for Modesto.

City officials say Southern California is the top destination for Modesto Airport passengers. Modesto also sees its airport as an economic benefit for the region; reliable air service can help keep and recruit businesses.

What do you think of this pledge drive? A good idea? Or a waste of time?

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