Steamboat Springs Five key airlines brought 27,480 passengers into Yampa Regional Airport in March, boosting ski season totals to 89,328. That number does not include any of the April flights.
The March figures show YVRA is on pace to finish approximately 5,000 passengers ahead of last ski season, when the airport welcomed 83,541 passengers, December through March. Another 2,030 passengers arrived in April 2001.
Steamboat Ski Area Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said this week that resort officials have known for some time that final ski season flight numbers would compare favorably to recent winters.
"I think what you're seeing is the solid booking patterns we have noted over the last 60 to 90 days," Wirth said. "It's taken a lot of collective work to get here but we're real proud of where things ended up with the airline program."
The resort community's airline program appeared to be reeling immediately after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Wirth immediately pulled back on some marketing programs until the strategy could be rethought.
Flights to Steamboat on United Express and United were the slowest to recover, in part because United was among the slowest to restore flights that were canceled in late fall. And Steamboat reached a mutual decision to back off from its inaugural daily flights from Newark in December and January.
Wirth said both of those situations made a comeback in March. The Newark flights returned to daily status during the last full month of the ski season.
"The daily Newark flights in March were driving a big part of our numbers," Wirth said. "We're also pleased with the comeback situation of United/United Express."
Despite the lack of direct flights from major cities outside Colorado, United and its express carrier, Air Wisconsin, represented the dominant airline at YVRA this winter. United's mainline operation flew just one daily Boeing 737 daily from Denver International airport, accounting for 7,635 inbound passengers. But Air Wisconsin, operating a fleet of all jet commuter planes for the first time, delivered 23,956 passengers. Air Wisconsin, operating as United Express flew four daily flights from DIA during the ski season.
Season over season comparisons of ski season arrivals are made more difficult by changes in service from year to year.
TWA brought more than 9,000 passengers to the Yampa Valley last winter, but declared bankruptcy last summer. This winter, the TWA flights that had started in Atlanta and continued to Hayden via St. Louis, were more than offset by the addition of daily flights from Chicago on American.
Wirth said the best comparison for the Chicago flights can be drawn to the winter of 1999-2000 YVRA was not served by the Chicago market last winter.
"Even on the Chicago flight, we gained about 9 percentage points ahead of where we were two years ago," Wirth said.
American, with eight flights a week from Dallas in addition to the Chicago flight, was the second leading carrier at YVRA, carrying 27,024 passengers.
In March alone, American flew 8,752 passengers into YVRA. That number comes close to the biggest monthly total of any airline in three ski seasons here. American did better by just a handful of passengers in March 2000, when it transported 8,777 into YVRA. Continental, with daily flights from Houston, and a limited schedule from Newark, carried 5,108 passengers in March. Air Wisconsin totaled 7,405.
Although Wirth had something good to say about all of the destinations in the Steamboat flight program, he was especially pleased with the volume of passengers flying through Houston.
Northwest airlines, which accounted for about 12 percent of passengers coming into YVRA this winter, showed significant improvement over last March, with 3,517 passengers. That's 617 more than March 2001. February's numbers for Northwest were about 200 ahead of last year, but January was about 150 passengers behind 201.
American accounted for 31 percent of YVRA's passengers and Air Wisconsin was next at 27.2 percent. Add United's 9.6 percent to Air Wisconsin, and the United fleet accounted for more than 36 percent of the traffic at YVRA.
If there was a downside to the news about the airline program, Wirth said, it's that yields, or revenues, are down, in some cases. Declining revenues can be attributed in part to the fares offered to persuade Americans to resume traveling in the wake of Sept. 11.
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