For over 25 years, I have been concerned with air routes and air transportation policies affecting Utah and the Salt Lake City International Airport. Currently, a principal focus of regional air-route policy concerns the airport's need to establish nonstop air service to key destinations throughout the world.

The dynamics of Utah's growth as a business, economic and cultural center over the past 10-15 years, as well as its potential in the coming decade, require that Utah take its place among the major cities in the United States providing nonstop international air service. To that end, the Utah Air Travel Commission, through its International Air Route Committee, is in the midst of near-term and long-range analysis and reporting of international air service to determine the specific needs of Salt Lake International and the surrounding Intermountain West through the beginning of the 21st century, as well as how to meet those needs.Utah's Role As A Satellite To Denver

Utah finds itself in a position that parallels in many ways that of 25 years ago, when state air-route officials and legal counsel were seeking to obtain nonstop air service to major business and cultural markets on the East Coast.

In 1969, the state had no nonstop air service east of Denver.United Airlines had a monopoly on all of Utah's Salt Lake City-east air service. Both eastbound and westbound flights to and from Utah were forced to transit Denver's Stapleton Airport, a United hub, to reach the major markets of New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, Atlanta and St. Louis. Those cities acted as gateways for other major markets such as Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo and New Orleans. Utah and supporting traffic were required to change planes and sometimes carriers at Denver to reach their destination. Flights were timed and priced to meet the Denver and Eastern markets. The Salt Lake air service area was looked on as a Denver satellite or bedroom community to support Denver's nonstop operations.

This intolerable condition was remedied through the Salt Lake City Transcontinental Air Route Investigation in 1969, before the Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington. Recognizing the injustice to Utah, government officials and business and community leaders throughout Utah and surrounding states went on the line to actively support new nonstop route authority to break United's monopoly of Salt Lake-east traffic. Such leaders as Gov. Calvin L. Rampton, Gordon B. Hinckley, Mayor Conrad Harrison, Fred Ball, N. Eldon Tanner, B.Z. Kastler and Marriner Eccles played prominent roles as witnesses to the difficulties and the economic and social burdens of being without transcontinental nonstop air service. In a word, Utah and the Salt Lake Metro Area, in particular, could not viably compete against Denver and other major cities for new and existing business and cultural growth absent nonstop, competitive, long-haul air authority.

As a consequence of this major government-civic effort, Utah obtained in 1970 certificate authority to provide competitive nonstop transcontinental service to the major markets of New York City/Newark, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago. That authority took the form of awards to American Airlines and TWA and were later more fully developed by Western Airlines in the late `70s and Delta Airlines in the early `80s.

Now, in the mid-1990s, Salt Lake City International faces, in dimension, the same economic and cultural limitations and damage it confronted 25 years ago, only the landscape has shifted to international markets. Overseas passengers traveling to and from Salt Lake City are presently required to transit another U.S. gateway city, change planes and, in many instances, change carriers. Salt Lake International Airport traffic is relied on by other U.S. gateway cities such as Cincinnati, St. Louis, Atlanta, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles to support nonstop international service. Such international connections fail to meet essential public interest criteria for Utah. They result in higher fares, are inconvenient and are more circuitous than nonstop international flights. The bleak reality is that a missed connection due to weather or equipment problems on an international flight can be a harrowing experience and cause the loss of several days in international travel.

Utah's principal international markets for which nonstop service is or may be justified are London, Paris, Frankfurt, Seoul, Tokyo and Rome, inter alia. London is by all odds the highest-density market, more than three times any other. One of the distinct advantages of nonstop service is that the flights are timed to meet the convenience of the Utah and foreign passenger rather than the convenience of traffic at another U.S. gateway, such as New York City, Los Angeles or Cincinnati. Thus, a passenger boarding a SLC-London flight could leave Salt Lake City at 5:30 p.m. and arrive London at 9:00 a.m. the following morning; compare that to between 4-6 hours additional time the same passenger would have to waste in flying to another U.S. gateway city to connect with and board a London-destined flight, which requires a midday departure from Salt Lake City. Business, government and vacation passengers from gateway cities like Cincinnati (which, incidentally, has substantially less originating international traffic than does Salt Lake City) provide compelling and graphic stories about the convenience and the importance of a nonstop international frequency. The genuine need of Salt Lake City for nonstop international air service is underscored by the fact that the Mormon Church alone stands as the single largest international air traffic generator west of the Mississippi River.

The Essential Importance of the Delta Hub at Salt Lake City International

In order for a city to obtain direct international air service, it must not only have the requisite originating and connecting traffic, it must also have an airline that is desirous of flying the route. In Utah's case there can be no reasonable doubt that Delta is the optimal carrier. Indeed, Delta, with its significant hub at Salt Lake City International, may be the only carrier that presently could combine and pool traffic flows that would enable a carrier to financially operate an international route.

The Delta hub at Salt Lake City International has been and remains in the high public interest and contributes enormously to the public and private sectors of the Utah economy. It gives to Salt Lake City International and to Utah what we did not have 25 years ago - the ability to be a gateway itself, now to support nonstop international air routes. Other Salt Lake City carriers presently offer international connections at such points as St. Louis, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and San Francisco. But, depending upon the particular market, the Salt Lake passenger is facing either a back-haul or substantial circuitous routing to reach the international destination by a connecting flight.

The Delta hub at Salt Lake City has long-term public benefits that the traveling public must not forget, even when lured by short-term discount fares. There is reason for concern about the potential danger to air service that a new entry carrier, by offering below-cost fares, could cream-skim an established carrier's traffic developed over the years. While the Utah Air Travel Commission and I have established a long record advocating strong and aggressive competition on the merits between airlines, the public interest may not be well-served by short-term discounts that jeopardize an established hub and, in this case, weaken the traffic support for international nonstop routes.

Air Route Treaties and Bilateral Negotiations Between the United States and Foreign Countries

The authority to operate an international nonstop air route is governed by treaties with foreign governments, which are implemented by bilateral negotiations between representatives of each country. Recent discussions with top U.S. treaty officials in Washington as well as their British counterparts in London indicate that there presently is foundational support for a Salt Lake City-London nonstop route in both governments.

One of the principal obstacles in the bilateral discussions is the British government's unwillingness to allow more than two American flag carriers at Heathrow, London's major airport. There is strong rationale to support the argument that Delta must have access to Heathrow and not just at London's second airport, Gatwick. Delta maintains (and justifiably so) that it cannot meaningfully compete head-to-head against British airways unless it operates out of Heathrow the same as does BA. There is reason to believe that 1995 will see a resumption of the bilateral negotiations and a resolution that will enable Delta to initiate operations at Heathrow.

Public, Business and Community Support for International Service

International air routes are not easily obtained or awarded. It requires the dedication and effort of all the public and private sectors of the community working in concert to advocate international route authority. What is needed in this case is the same type of effort, dedication and vision in 1995 that characterized the energies of Utah leaders in 1969 and 1970,when Utah first became a major transcontinental city. If Utah is to become an international player, Gov. Leavitt, Mayor Corradini, business and church leaders all facets of the Utah community are going to have to assist the Utah Air Travel Commission and its International Committee in impressing upon the Clinton administration and the government of John Majors, among others, that Salt Lake City International has arrived and that its destiny is to be a major international player. Utah has realistic prospects of hosting the 2002 Winter Olympic Games; the Salt Lake Metro Area population is 1,500,000; the business and community ties with foreign countries in technology, equipment and service are rapidly accelerating; and Salt Lake International is a major hub on a domestic carrier that has the strength, capacity and management to inaugurate and stimulate international air route awards. If the state wants the benefits of nonstop international flights in the next several years, the time to develop strong support from the government and community is now.