More than 93,000 passengers arrived at Yampa Valley Regional Airport during the four biggest months of the ski season this year. That figure is an increase of 5,847 from the same period last year.
The Steamboat Ski Area typically opens in late November, and YVRA is served by United Express during that month. Direct jet flights from major cities do not begin until the middle of December. Looking only at the four months of December, January, February and March, passenger arrivals at YVRA were up about 6.6 percent, to 93,801, this ski season. That compares with 87,954 the previous winter, according to records kept by Routt County, which owns the airport.
Delta Airlines began serving YVRA for the first time this winter with daily flights from Salt Lake City and weekly flights from Atlanta. The 8,675 passengers who arrived on Delta flights would seem to account for the increase in ski season passengers. However, airline managers for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. consistently have said they expected Delta to take a portion of passengers from competing airlines, such as American (serving Chicago and Dallas) and Continental (serving Houston and Newark, N.J.).
Continental and American were down this ski season, but United Airlines, relying heavily on its commuter airline partners, was up a combined 2,200 passengers.
Ski Corp. airline program manager Janet Fischer said United's success in the market could be attributed to special marketing programs and the addition of a key sixth flight into YVRA. That flight improved connections between Steamboat and a set of flights arriving and departing from DIA from the West Coast, Fischer said.
United also invested more promotional resources into its partnership with Steamboat -- and a "Kids Fly Free" promotion paid dividends, Fischer said.
"Steamboat was the first out with Kids Fly Free in January and the first to extend it into late February and March," Fischer said. "We had an exclusive on it for several weeks. That was huge."
Air Wisconsin and Mesa Airlines, both flying as United Express from Denver, combined to bring 25,632 passengers to YVRA during the four-month period. That's up about 1,100 passengers from the same period in 2002-03.
United's mainline carrier flew a daily 737 between Denver International Airport and YVRA. That flight accounted for 8,105 passengers, up from 7,009 last winter.
American was down about 400 passengers, from 24,635 to 24,194.
Continental, which competed with Delta for passengers from the southeastern United States, was off almost 3,000 passengers, from 18,606 to 15,656. In March alone, Continental was off by 1,500 passengers.
Northwest Airlines, with a daily flight from Minneapolis, was down about 1,600 passengers.
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