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RIVERTON (AP) — Three airlines have submitted applications to serve Riverton under a federal subsidy program.

Airport manager Bill Urbigkit said the filings "are real positive and I'm quite pleased."

Great Lakes Aviation, Big Sky Airlines and Mesa Air Group have filed applications for a federal subsidy.

Mesa is seeking the largest subsidy, $1.944 million, while Big Sky's request is for the least amount, $524,746. Great Lakes is seeking a subsidy of $832,248.

Great Lakes and Mesa proposed three daily round trips to Denver, while Big Sky has proposed that same schedule plus one round-trip to Billings.

Big Sky executives indicated they would be open to making two daily round trips to Denver and one each to Salt Lake City and Billings if there was community support for such a schedule and if the U.S. Department of Transportation would allow it.

The U.S. DOT order will only subsidize two or three daily round trips but only to Denver.

Big Sky executive Craig Denney said last week his airline's proposal to fly to Billings once daily, "would be on our nickel. We're not asking a subsidy for that."

Denney said if the community wanted a daily flight to Salt Lake, his airline would consider that.

The next step in the process is for DOT to hold a rate conference with each airline and solidify each carrier's subsidy request. The applications will then be forwarded to the city.

"Our plan right now is for the airport board to review the applications. I think we'll also hold a public hearing to gain community input," Urbigkit said.

Urbigkit said the airport board would then make a recommendation to the city council, which would decide which application they would support.

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"I hope to have this process happen in a timely matter, because uncertainly is not good for us," Urbigkit said.

Through the first four months of the year, boardings at Riverton Regional Airport totaled 2,730 passengers, down 311 from the same time last year.

The airport manager said Big Sky Airline's willingness to consider a flight to Salt Lake "would help our enplanements immensely.

"Having direct flights from Riverton to three other cities would be hog heaven," Urbigkit said. "That would open up connecting flights to all major U.S. airlines."

Great Lakes presently serves Riverton Regional Airport. In February, the Cheyenne-based airline announced its intention to withdraw from the city in order to trigger the Essential Air Service subsidy process.

Great Lakes reported a net loss of $3.9 million this week for the first three months of the year, blaming declining passenger numbers and other factors.

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