Denver's contribution would be in the form of incentives, such as the waiver of landing fees or funds for marketing the new route. No taxpayer money will be used, said Laura Jackson, DIA vice president of air service development.
"DIA's current air service incentive program allows airlines to choose to waive operational fees; use funds for marketing purposes; or a combination of both, " Jackson said in an e-mail. "If an airline chooses to only waive operational fees, then there are no payments to the airline — there are no funds used. If the airline chooses marketing funds, the money comes from DIA's cash reserves; it is not billed back to airlines."
And there is a built-in safeguard: The service must stay in place for 24 consecutive months, or the carrier must refund the value of any incentive back to the city.
Monroe airport manager Ron Phillips said Denver is one of the top five destinations from Monroe. That's primarily because of CenturyLink, which has about 5, 000 employees in Colorado and about 2, 200 at its headquarters in Monroe, the company said.
"A direct flight would not only benefit CenturyLink but our entire northeast Louisiana region, " CenturyLink spokeswoman Annmarie Sartor said in an e-mail. "CenturyLink employees travel to and from Denver regularly (all different times/frequencies weekly) either commercially or on Company planes."
Sartor said the push for the flight was not driven by a possible relocation of Monroe CenturyLink's headquarters to Denver, and that she is "not aware" of any company incentives offered to any party regarding the flight.
Reports in The News Star that the city is speaking with American Airlines are incorrect, Phillips said. Nor is Monroe talking to Delta Air Lines, which was at one time headquartered in the city.
"We have been in discussions with United about this flight, " he said. "We plan to have similar discussions with other airlines."