Great Lakes Airlines, the airline that provides daily flights to Las Vegas from the Merced Regional Airport, will be Merced's carrier for another two years.
In a shaky economy, Merced can still boast a stable relationship with an airline carrier that provides air service -- as well as an airport that may have the opportunity to expand its services.
In addition to updating the two-year lease this week, Merced is also in possible talks with the Wyoming-based airline about flights to Los Angeles International Airport, according to Bill Cahill, assistant city manager.
"It's nothing really immediately pending, it is something we would like to see," he said, adding that the airline has "talked to us about it a bit."
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He stressed that a deal isn't set in stone, saying "they haven't announced anything yet or given any particular date."
The airline started the Las Vegas service in April. An estimated 300 to 400 leave Merced for Sin City depending on what month it is, according to Cahill.
"They scheduled the service to Las Vegas a few months ago, and that has built up the ridership already," he said.
But the city would like to see the target goal of a little fewer than 1,000 passengers a month -- a number that the previous airline, Mesa Airlines, was flying out three years ago on average, Cahill said. "We would like to see a return to that," he said.
Moreover, the lease will provide the airport with increased annual revenues of $2,400.
Cahill said the city wants to make the airport more self-sufficient. He said each time there's a chance to renew an airline lease, the rent is increased, "so it reduces the amount of general tax support." The airport receives more than $100,000 a year from the general fund.
Each week, about 14 flights, two a day, leave the Merced Regional airport for Las Vegas.
A recent search on the airline website found the price of flights to Las Vegas for an upcoming weekend going for more than $300.
"We look forward to continuing service to a major destination like Las Vegas," Cahill said, adding that he wants the airport to support more passengers, more flights and bigger aircraft.
"Hopefully, we may also see service to other destinations as well," he said. "The major advantage is Las Vegas is out of state and is actually the largest volume airport west of the Rocky Mountains."
Phone calls to Great Lake Airlines weren't returned Tuesday.
Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.