Wyoming has had success in creating airline hubs around the state in Laramie, Cody, Jackson, Casper, Sheridan, Riverton, Gillette, and Rock Springs. Without state subsidies, many of these places would not have the quality of air service they are now experiencing.
When I first heard about Cheyenne offering daily airline service to and from Dallas, I was skeptical.
Plus, with local, state, and federal help, a brand-new terminal had been built in Cheyenne for what appeared to be non-existent airlines. It was seemingly a Wyoming version of the famous Alaska bridge to nowhere.
It was the airline terminal with no airline service.
Then some hardworking folks came up with the idea of non-stop daily service to Dallas, subsidized by local, state and federal funds.
When I told my Lander friends that we were going to fly that route the day after Christmas, they thought we were crazy.
Our youngest daughter, Amber, lives in north Dallas with her husband and three kids. In recent years, we have started a holiday tradition of celebrating an early Christmas Eve on Dec. 23 with our Lander-based daughter, Shelli Johnson, and her family. Then we fly to Dallas right after Christmas, trying to be in two places at once over the holidays.
To complicate our holiday plans even more, I fiddled with our schedule so we could drive to Denver during the day on Christmas Eve. Then we could visit our first great-grandchild, little Hailey, in Castle Pines south of Denver.
After that visit, we drove all the way north through Denver to spend the actual Christmas Eve with my Sniffin relatives in Broomfield. We spent Christmas day with my 94-year-old mom at her nursing home.
Thank God Interstate 25 was dry, and traffic was manageable. On Dec. 26, we found ourselves sitting in an empty Cheyenne airport terminal waiting for that one solitary regional jet.
There were terrible weather reports coming out of Dallas, and I feared if this plane missed its flight, we were screwed.
In fact, the SkyWest crew was early, and we were pleased to see that jet on the tarmac unloading incoming passengers.
Because of weight restrictions in Dallas, the 50-passenger plane could only take 36 people. That was the last we heard about that problem and the plane loaded.
The flight to Dallas was wonderful. Took 127 minutes. Plus there were 14 empty seats to spread yourselves around in if you wanted.
Bad news hit when we got to Dallas. They were getting hellish thunderstorms. We circled awhile in turbulence and then made a dive into the pattern and landed. Whew! Then we sat. And sat. And sat some more.
The airport had suspended all takeoffs because of the lightning, which was a smart decision. It was one of the most fantastic displays of lightning I have ever seen. Bright and loud. Nobody was complaining about sitting there. We could not unload because other planes were in all the gates.
Finally, we unloaded and were met by our Dallas relatives.
We basked in 60-degree weather for a week and enjoyed the holiday while Wyoming got blasted with holiday storms. It was minus 18 with 10 inches of new snow in Lander. I was feeling pretty smug about our decision to head south.
While in Dallas, we enjoyed buying gasoline for $1.87 per gallon and saw the movies “Vice” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Both were very good. “Vice” was hard on the Dick Cheney family and Wyoming, but the acting was amazing. If you like the musical group Queen, you will love the latter movie.
Our trip home was uneventful although the Dallas airport was a busy mess. Jan. 2 is also one of the busiest travel days of the year. In Cheyenne, the airport was quiet and calm and there was no charge for parking our car in the airport parking lot.
We saved probably $75 in parking fees. When comparison-shopping, the prices from Denver to Dallas were about $700 for Nancy and me. The fee for Cheyenne to Dallas was $470 for both of us.
Overall, I would say this is a great deal.
It seems to me that Colorado’s Front Range folks might drive to Cheyenne to save money and avoid their big airport hassle. Folks from all over Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado are potential travelers out of this airport.
Next effort should be daily flights from Cheyenne to Salt Lake City and even Denver.
The airline future could be bright for Cheyenne with proper regional promotion.
Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books. His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.