Jackson Hole will be more accessible by air than ever this winter, with new service coming in from Boston, Seattle, San Diego and San Jose, California.
The added connectivity to the Pacific coast airports is the result of Alaska Airlines making its grand debut of service to Jackson Hole Airport. The airline had approached Jackson Hole Air Improvement Resources in 2019, inquiring about the market. A year lapsed, a pandemic happened, and then, without any nudges, the Seattle-based airline announced the new service this week.
“There’s no minimum-revenue guarantee involved, there’s no cost recovery whatsoever,” veteran JH Air Chairman Mike Gierau told the News&Guide. “This is just Alaska Airlines wanting to fly to Jackson Hole.”
A press release Alaska Airlines sent out Monday suggested that consumer demand drove the decision to expand. Besides twice-a-week flights from San Jose and five times a week from San Diego, the airline is also adding five flights a week from Seattle, a market that would otherwise have fallen off, because Delta Airlines dropped its SeaTac flight.
“We know our guests on the West Coast are looking for nonstop access to more outdoor locales, and we’re excited to expand our footprint with the addition of Jackson Hole,” Brett Catlin, Alaska’s managing director of capacity planning and alliances, said in the press release.
The Alaska Airline flights will all be aboard Embraer 175 jets. Fares start at $129 one way for San Diego and San Jose and $139 for Seattle. Some Alaska Airline flights might be subcontracted to Horizon Air or SkyWest, according to the press release.
The three new markets bring Jackson Hole Airport’s directly connected cities to 14, a record that’s being set the same year that commercial air travel has been upended by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Boy, I’d challenge you to find another city in America that’s our size that has that kind of coverage,” Gierau said.
Although airlines are gearing up and finalizing flights schedules for the 2019-20 winter season, air traffic into Jackson Hole has not rebounded. The last full month data was available, in July, passenger numbers were still down 44% compared with 2019 levels, with 154,000 passengers instead of the 273,000 the same month a year ago.
Gierau, who also owns the airport restaurant, Jedediah’s, said it’s been a tough year: Business to date in 2020 is down 50%. While the airlines’ interest in targeting Teton County this winter is nice, he said only time will tell if activity levels bounce back to where they’ve been.
“The airlines are going to do what the airlines are going to do,” Gierau said. “They’re going to send the service down if things are not going well.”
Some flights, in fact, have dropped off already.
Besides Delta dropping its Seattle service, the Atlanta-based airline also did away with direct service to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City over the holiday season.
“But we’ll still have LaGuardia and Newark, with American and United,” Gierau said. “And the Seattle service dropped from Delta, but it got picked up by Alaska.”
The added Boston flight, offered by American on Saturdays, held a special significance to Gierau, who recalled a conversation he had early in his career with Jackson Hole Ski Corp. founder Paul McCollister.
“He always used to say, you’ll know when Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has arrived as a ski area destination when we get a flight from Logan — from Boston,” Gierau said. “My first thought was, ‘Paul, we finally made it.’”