United woes won't affect YVRA

Company attempting to stave off bankruptcy

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— United Airlines' financial woes should not hinder air traffic into Yampa Valley Regional Airport this winter, local officials said.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said he and his colleagues have been monitoring United's financial difficulties for several months.

"Our high level contacts are indicating that there will not be any 2002 or 2003 impacts," Wirth said.

Ski Corp. negotiates with several airlines to bring direct flights into the Yampa Valley.

United is seeking a $1.8 billion federal loan guarantee in order to stave off bankruptcy. The airline is trying to slash $5.2 billion in payroll over the next five years, but the airlines' mechanics union recently voted against proposed wage cuts. A second vote is scheduled for Thursday.

The airline has said the wage concessions are critical to getting the loan guarantee.

Even if United has to file bankruptcy this winter, Wirth said the airline should meet its seasonal contract with Ski Corp. He said bankruptcy would not keep United from flying its routes.

Flights into YVRA aren't the only issue. Ski Corp. officials are keeping an eye on flights from Steamboat's important skier markets into Denver. United is expected to closely examine the profitability of all its flights and make changes and cuts when deemed necessary, Wirth said.

So far, it appears that United flights from Ski Corp.'s important markets, such as Atlanta, are "still in good shape," Wirth said.

United runs two 737 flights from Denver to YVRA each day in the winter.

The company also partners with Air Wisconsin to provided three flights a day into YVRA through United Express.

In 2001, United's 737 flights from Denver brought 85,323 passengers to the Yampa Valley. United Express brought 19,707, YVRA Director Jim Parker said.

Northwest Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines also fly into YVRA, but not to the scale of United.

In all, Wirth said United carries about 40 percent of all airline travelers coming to the Yampa Valley. Around 5 percent of that is guaranteed seating.

"They are absolutely a key player to us," Wirth said. "They are a key partner and we are doing everything we can to help them through this situation."

Wirth said it's not clear how United's financial problems will impact the Yampa Valley a year from now. In a couple months, he said Ski Corp. will work on its 2003 and 2004 winter flight plan and then he'll know more.

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