Improving YVRA

Airport officials discuss handling terminal congestion

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More than than 2,500 air travelers walked through the doors of Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Saturday, and despite the airport handling numerous private planes diverted from closed airports in Vail and Aspen, the traffic moved relatively smoothly -- a major improvement over last weekend's mess.

Airport officials met Tuesday to discuss how to handle terminal congestion that results when multiple flights are delayed and cancelled, as they were because of this week's snowstorms.

One of the ideas discussed at the meeting was to allow only passengers whose flights landed into the security holding room, said Ann Copeland, manager of Worldwide Flight Services and general manager of American Airlines at YVRA.

That approach was taken this weekend. It was achieved by communicating with air traffic control at Denver International Airport to determine the sequence in which planes would be arriving, YVRA Director Jim Parker said. When snow seriously delays flights from landing on time, their landing sequence can sometimes be altered depending on how long a plane has been in a holding pattern and how much fuel it has left.

"We contacted (DIA) air traffic control last week, but we didn't get that kind of information," Parker said. "The main difference this week was better communication all around."

The added influx of private planes and jets, or general aviation, was handled by allowing only a certain number of them on the taxiway at a time. General aviation was held at times to make sure commercial aircraft could land in a timely fashion, Parker said.

Still, flights were late, mostly because of the weather.

A Delta flight from Atlanta was 40 minutes late; the plane had left Georgia a few minutes behind schedule and circled YVRA once before landing. Austin Suellentrop of Birmingham, Ala., said he didn't mind the delay and had worse experiences flying into Hayden in the past 10 to 11 years.

Jane Moderhack of Charleston, S.C., also said she did not mind the delay. She said she was more concerned about leaving YVRA, particularly about having to arrive the recommended 2 1/2 to three hours early.

"Three hours is the most extreme I've ever heard," she said.

However, departing passengers who adhered to the early-arrival recommendation helped business run smoothly Saturday. Some departing passengers had to wait outside in the snow when the newly constructed cuing area was filled, but many travelers said they had such a good vacation that the wait did not bother them.

"This is better than driving to Denver after staying in Vail," said Chris LaFace of Tallahassee, Fla. "This wouldn't prevent me from coming back."

"After a great vacation, this is OK," said Trish Robinson, of Virginia, who stood outside in the falling snow. "I would rather stand out here in the beautiful snow one last time."

Others were dismayed by the wait outside.

"If they just had something overhead, it would be OK," Maureen Graves said.

"It's just kind of a pain pushing your luggage through slush," Susan Burns said.

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