United loads fewer passengers in July

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United Express flights leaving Yampa Valley Regional Airport in July were 70 percent full on average.

That means the 37-passenger Dash-8 turboprops flown by Mesa Air Group carried an average of 26 passengers each last month.

Mesa assumed responsibility from Air Wisconsin on July 7 for United Express Service between Denver International Airport and Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Figures compiled by Routt County show that after that date, Mesa loaded 1,983 passengers bound for Denver. Combined with 279 passengers flown by Air Wisconsin during the first week in July, the month's air passengers totaled 2,262, which is 380 fewer than Air Wisconsin flew out of YVRA in July 2002. Air Wisconsin flights averaged 75 percent capacity last July.

A spokesperson for Mesa said none of last month's flights was weight restricted.

Mesa announced Tuesday that systemwide its aircraft had load factors of 70.4 percent in July, compared with 62.4 percent for the same period a year ago. Mesa reported its year-over-year passenger miles increased by 56.7 percent in July to 310 million. The company announced net income of $5.8 million for the quarter ended June 30. That compares with $2.7 million for the same period last fiscal year.

During the past two winters, all of the commuter flights serving YVRA were small jets.

The upcoming winter's flight schedules indicate Air Wisconsin's British Aerospace jets will be back for ski season. However, it's unclear whether Air Wisconsin or Mesa will perform ground operations here.

Mesa Vice President of Planning Scott Lyon was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Mesa has given no indication that it will abandon its 10 Dash-8 turboprops, but the company has been aggressively acquiring regional jets since the first of the year. In addition to 12 small jets acquired in the third fiscal quarter, the company has announced it will pick up nine more 70- and 50-passenger models by the end of September. That would boost the company's regional jet fleet to 96.

Routt County figures also show the impact of a runway overlay project in May and June. The airport was closed for about 40 days. Departing passengers in May numbered 137, compared with 1,591 in 2002. June departures dropped to 1,008 from 1,879.

Mesa operates 144 aircraft with 1,079 daily departures to 162 cities. The airline provides aircraft and crews to four larger carriers.

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