United turns it around at YVRA

Number of passengers booked comparable to last year

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— The wind-driven storm that piled up drifts of snow at the base of Mount Werner Monday morning had no effect on commercial aviation at Yampa Valley Regional Airport, 30 miles to the west.

"This is the tropics down here compared to Steamboat," said United's manager, Jim Halgren. "You guys are living in an ice box."

United's volume at YVRA was in the deep freeze in December. But the trend has reversed itself, Halgren said.

United flies into the airport near Hayden both as United Express (Air Wisconsin flying 50-passenger jets) and the mainline airline, operating a daily 737. United has recently added a second daily 737 on Saturdays during the peak of the ski season.

The airline's performance here in December was off from the previous year. Air Wisconsin totaled 3,700 passengers in December 2001 compared to 4,086 in December 2000. The drop-off was even more dramatic in the case of the daily 737 flight. During December 2000, the daily 737 from Denver brought nearly 2,000 passengers to the Yampa Valley. In December 2001, it hauled just 734.

"Our loads right now are above last year," Halgren said. "Of course, this year we have bigger planes."

The airline changed equipment this year abandoning turboprops for the larger BAE 146 jets that fly between Denver and Hayden. Along with the change to larger aircraft came a reduced frequency of flights.

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said United stumbled in November and December, when it was slow to adjust prices in the wake of Sept. 11. Since the first of the year, he said, the airline has made strides in terms of marketing and competitive pricing.

Wirth said passengers booked at YVRA through Feb. 17 this year total 34,442 compared to 34,467 at the same date last year.

Looking forward, Wirth said the airline is projecting that its aircraft in and out of YVRA will be 62 percent full during the remainder of ski season.

Halgren said he believes United's reversal of fortune in the ski markets is due in part to the convenience of going through security in a smaller airport. Some people are flying all the way to their final destination rather than renting a car in Denver, for that reason, he theorized.

Wirth said United is picking up some reservations simply because flights at certain departure times are sold out on other airlines.

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