Steamboat Springs Midway Airlines opting to schedule an extra airplane to fly directly to Hayden this ski season was a welcome, out-of-the-blue surprise for community leaders organizing the transportation support fund in Steamboat.
"It was a really nice surprise on our part," Steamboat Ski Corp. public relations director Mike Lane said.
Midway Airlines will provide twice-a-week, non-stop jet service during the 2000/2001 ski season from its Raleigh-Durham hub to Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
The airline ap-proached Steamboat late in the game, Chamber Executive Vice President Sandy Evans Hall said. For Midway, that meant ski corp. could not offer the airline any up-front revenue for scheduling regular flights into Hayden, Evans Hall said. Instead, ski corp. has committed $40,000 to $60,000 of its marketing budget to help market the flights, she said.
Evans Hall said that employees at Midway are familiar with Steamboat, and that when the airline received new planes, it chose to commit one to flying here direct.
"We concluded we'd earn a decent return from sending flights to Steamboat," Midway Airlines President and CEO Robert Ferguson said. "We thought we'd give it a try."
Ferguson said that not many people travel in January and February, so winter is a good time to invest in some of the more seasonal markets, like ski towns.
Ferguson said that Pitkin County Airport, the destination for Aspen-bound skiers, has restrictions on aircraft that precluded Midway from doing business there. He is not sure what the restrictions or situation are at Eagle County Airport.
"Sending our aircraft to Steamboat was the most logical decision," he said, "and we're happy to be sending our planes to you."
The Midway flights don't just mean Steamboat will see more skiers from North Carolina. While Raleigh-Durham is growing market in itself, it also offers one-stop access from some of the biggest ski markets in the country, said Andy Wirth, ski corp.'s senior vice president of marketing.
For example, residents of Boston, Washington D.C., Orlando, Indianapolis, Fort Lauderdale, Buffalo and New Orleans to name a few who previously travelled to Chicago to fly directly into Steamboat may now be able to count on Raleigh-Durham for the same thing.
"It's worth a shot," Evans Hall said. "It will only be providing 3,700 round-trip seats during the course of the season."
Lane said every little bit helps, and that Raleigh-Durham is a good market.
"This is going to work out well for everybody," he said. "And Midway's really excited. They can't wait for the season to start."
Right now, Steamboat has non-step jet service scheduled from Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Newark and St.Louis, as well as Raleigh-Durham.
Wirth is currently in Houston negotiating with Continental Airlines on its flight schedule for the upcoming ski season.
The new Midway service will begin on Dec. 19 and operate through March 31, 2001.
The Midway flight will depart from Raleigh-Durham at 10:30 a.m. arriving in Hayden at 12:30 p.m. Flights out of Hayden will depart at 2 p.m. and arrive in Raleigh-Durham at 7:30 p.m.
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