Local business support helps LSE pursue expanding flight options

From the La Crosse Regional Airport, travelers can fly directly to either Chicago or Minneapolis, but the airport is always looking to expand its options. Now airport officials say partnerships with area businesses are making that a more likely reality.

Twenty-seven area businesses are what the airport calls LSE Leaders, meaning they’ve pledged to update travel policies to support the airport.

“The airport provides an important asset, and that’s really the transportation between our area and rest of the world,” airport director Clint Torp said.

Torp said, however, it takes support from businesses to maintain and add more flights.

“We’re currently having discussions with multiple airlines on those opportunities, lengthy discussions, and it can take years to bring in a new hub.”

Torp said the program LSE Leaders, which is “like a buy local program for flying,” gives airlines incentive to set up shop at the La Crosse Regional Airport.

“That is something the airlines are very interested in,” he said. “If we’re going to make a multimillion-dollar investment, how are we going to be guaranteed the community’s going to support that flight? That’s part of that LSE Leaders program.”

Dairyland Power Cooperative is one of the LSE Leaders. Communications and marketing director Deb Mirasola said 75 percent of employee air travel goes through La Crosse Regional Airport.

“It provides convenience for employees. They park for lesser cost. It’s more efficient time-wise; there’s less travel to, say, another airport three hours away,” she said. “We get better value for employees in general by using LSE.”

“The benefit to businesses may not be immediate, but it will hopefully be down the road with a return on investment when we bring in additional seats with lower costs and more destinations,” Torp said.

Torp said potential future destinations include Detroit, Dallas and Denver, but the timeline on securing additional hubs is still up in the air.

“We really depend on the usership,” he said. It is a community asset, owned by people of the community, and we hope they’ll use it and we’ll be able to”grow it.”

Torp said there are a number of challenges in adding new flights and destinations, including other airports competing for the resources and the national pilot shortage.

LSE Leaders also include Kwik Trip, Altra Credit Union and both major hospitals.