SkyWest Airlines, operating as United Express, will fly the new generation Embraer 170 76-passenger jet  between Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Denver International for the majority of spring and summer 2017.

SkyWest Airlines, operating as United Express, will fly the new generation Embraer 170 76-passenger jet between Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Denver International for the majority of spring and summer 2017. Embraer/courtesy

Early forecast: Ski season airline arrivals down about 2 percent

Spring airline deals in play

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— Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Director of Airline Programs Janet Fischer told the citizens board that oversees the airline program March 17 that, based on data through February, ski season airline arrivals will be off about 2.5 percent this season, to 79,900.

That compares to 82,000 by the end of the 2015-16 ski season. Fischer added that the projected number of arriving seats (flights that actually operated) will drop from 116,900 in the 2015-16 season to 114,600 this year. The total number of available arriving seats in the 2014-15 ski season was 109,000. Arrivals in 2015-16 were were 75,500.

Some of this year’s drop is due to weather, both in cities where the direct flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport originate, as well as some quirky weather at the airport 23 miles west of Steamboat in Hayden. Fischer said there were days when a strange fog developed at the airport and refused to budge, even though it was sunny in Steamboat.

Spring air schedule changed

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Director of Airline Programs Janet Fischer reported March 17 that, since she last reported in late February, United Airlines has extended the spring period during which Yampa Valley Regional Airport will see only one daily roundtrip to Denver. Steamboat Today reported Feb. 17 that twice-daily roundtrips would begin June 8, but the the latest change pushes the beginning of twice-daily flights to July 1.

The better news is that, excepting the period of May 4 through June 7, spring and summer service (through Aug. 14) will be on the new generation 76-passenger Embraer 170, operated by United Express carrier SkyWest.

As it currently stands, the departure time for flights to Denver this spring will vary between 8 a.m. and 8:10 a.m., subject to change. Arrivals into the Yampa Valley are scheduled for 8:45 p.m.

That happened two or three times,” Fischer said, “when we definitely took some cancellations. That affects our seats and passengers right there.”

Passengers by the numbers

Five years of February airline arrivals at Yampa Valley Regional Airport

February 2017: 22,151

February 2016: 24,080

February 2015: 21,576

February 2014: 20,082

February 2013: 20,733

Source: Yampa Valley Regional Airport

On the business side of the airline program, which is jointly funded by the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. and lodging taxes, Fischer was able to project that the cost for this ski season’s flight program will come in less than the $5.7 million cap “by a decent amount.” The airline program managers and the board of the Local Marketing District, which reports to Steamboat Springs City Council, secure the airline service by guaranteeing minimum revenues to the airlines .

And even as members of the LMD and Ski Corp. officials begin to work on contracts for the 2017-18 flight program, Ski Corp. marketers are still trying to boost airline traffic for the final few weeks of this ski season.

“We’re still trying to push airline traffic with emails,” Fischer said. “The change of Easter to mid-April definitely affected spring break patterns from week to week. But we’re still picking up reservations closer in for March 19 to April 2 with the help of reduced fares from the airlines.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

Comments

Scott Wedel 1 week, 3 days ago

What is not well described is that the airline budget has several important numbers. The total amount "spent" is more like a deposit of which much is to be returned when Ski Corps brings in the expected number of tourists. Another key number is amount Ski Corps contribution which is historically expected to be spent as part of their costs of attracting customers.

The most critical number is how much more than Ski Corps contribution is going to be spent. That is the taxpayer funded "reserves". If they are burning through that then there is going to be a major "what next?" issue facing the community. It is highly doubtful that there would be public support for a general sales or property tax.

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Scott Wedel 1 week, 3 days ago

What is also not well described is how many of the seats into YVRA are due to the airline subsidy program. The Denver flights historically have not received subsidies. So the airline program is not responsible for all tourists flying into YVRA.

Nor is it well described why the airline program is so important when according to the Chamber, there are 10,900 tourists in town this weekend and no more than 3,000 arrived by air and only some of those arrived on subsidized flights.

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