Still waiting for airport details

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When Mayor Steve Bach called together the media this week for his monthly news conference, he gave away the prime topic in advance. After all, the event took place at the Colorado Springs Airport.

Our assumption was immediate. Bach would use the occasion to wrap up the story left unfinished three weeks earlier. Going into that June 27 media gathering, also at the airport, everyone had been led to believe the mayor would announce added air service.

Not just maybes, but specifics. We were told to expect nonstop service revived by existing airlines between Colorado Springs and two other cities. And though no dates were mentioned, the assumption was that it would happen as soon as possible.

Instead, the June 27 headline was nothing like that. Alaska Airlines, which never has done business here, would start daily nonstop service — on a smaller regional jet — between the Springs and Seattle in November.

Good news, certainly, but confusing nevertheless. Subsequent reports suggested that another airline would announce renewed service to another city. And on July 1, when Fitch Ratings affirmed the airport’s credit rating, the report included this statement, obviously from information provided by local officials: “Some lost service could be restored in 2014, with two airlines finalizing plans to resume service to two previously served markets.”

So, surely, we’d get that answer Tuesday.

Instead, Bach unveiled a new all-star task force (see story by John Hazlehurst, starting on page 1) of prominent Springs figures: Bill Hybl, Steve Bartolin, Scott Blackmun, Pam Shockley-Zalabak and Ret. Gen. Gene Renuart. They were asked to seek new solutions for how to revitalize local airline service.

But we’re still waiting for the rest of that story, which supposedly was to happen in June. And it’s becoming harder to stay hopeful.

In the past, we’ve seen this airport — when it has been able to draw passengers from Pueblo and the rest of Southern Colorado — able to support flights to other cities no longer being served from here, including Phoenix, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Orlando and more. The region’s population continues to grow, so why can’t we have a healthy, bustling airport?

It’s not that easy, of course. Obviously, something must have happened to short-circuit the negotiations that seemed so certain last month. We also thought, when Mayor Bach took charge of the situation in March by forcing Mark Earle’s resignation as airport director, that new approaches would be forthcoming.

Instead, four months later, we have Alaska Airlines adding one flight daily in November, and we have a task force of power players. Yes, an advertising campaign has started, trying to show that higher fares out of Colorado Springs should be offset by other lower costs. And the Regional Tourism Act projects, if approved in some form, could provide a shot of fresh optimism.

Perhaps the task force can deliver, but that’s a lot to ask. Until we actually have more flights to more cities, and obviously more airlines, we can’t blindly assume this story will have a happy ending someday. Because it won’t.