Saturday, January 19, 2002
Steamboat Springs All of the airlines operating direct flights into Yampa Valley Regional Airport were up in December over the previous year.
The spike came despite concerns last fall that skiers would not board planes to visit Colorado ski areas after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The only flights that did not increase were United Airlines' flights from Denver.
The total number of passengers arriving at the airport last month was 15,371 compared to 14,688 in December 2000. The growth in passengers might have been even stronger had the United Express flights not plummeted. United flies into YVRA both as United Express (Air Wisconsin flying 50-passenger jets) and the mainline airline, operating a daily 737. 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. Last December, the daily 737 from Denver brought nearly 2,000 passengers to the Yampa Valley.
Last month, just 734 passengers flew into YVRA on the 737.
Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth said United was slower to reduce fares and add more flights back into the schedule as the flying public regained confidence after the terrorist attacks.
However, he thinks United officials have awakened to the situation and are aggressively promoting ski season discounts to get back in the picture.
"It was very noticeable the lack of growth on Air Wisconsin," Wirth said. "We started working in earnest in November to make United aware of the situation. Now we're seeing them pick up the pace.
"We always want to focus on the direct flights, but the connecting flights through Denver on United are very important. United is advertising not only special fares but Steamboat packages in USA Today, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. We're seeing a huge move by United right now."
Some of the changes in passenger volume this December can be attributed to changes in the airline schedules.
YVRA potentially lost more than1,000 passengers due to the disappearance of Midway flights from Raleigh/Durham and TWA flights from Atlanta/St. Louis. But the addition of daily flights from Chicago on American was a significant contributor.
The number of passengers flying into YVRA on American in December was 4,349 compared to 2,676 a year earlier. Continental, with flights from Houston and Newark, saw its traffic into YVRA grow from 2,479 to 3,768.
Wirth said he could not have predicted the encouraging airline statistics back in November.
"There have been many very pleasant surprises," Wirth said. "This shows the resilience of the economy, but also the resiliency of the skier."
Daily flights from Minneapolis on Northwest Airlines, showed more modest gains, growing from 1,316 to 1,419.
The airline's flights did not begin until Dec. 14, and thus do not reflect a full four weeks of operations.
Wirth is not oblivious to the fact that the resort hit a slow spot in mid January and following this weekend's three-day holiday for Martin Luther King Day, it's likely to be slow again. But he sees signs that February and March could be strong.
The "pacing" of reservations for the Chicago flight on American is currently 900 passengers ahead of where it was two years ago (YVRA was not served from the Chicago market in 2001), and the Houston flight is 3,500 passengers ahead of last year looking through the end of the ski season, Wirth said.
"If demand keeps going at this rate, we'll have wanted more capacity," Wirth said.
"We'll have soft spots in between now and Feb. 10. But most importantly, demand is still be in the pipeline."