The number of major cities with direct ski season jet flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport will have grown to nine when the first Delta Airlines 757 from Cincinnati touches down Dec. 15.
YVRA, 22 miles west of Steamboat Springs, saw 103,000 arriving passengers in 2003 with almost 90,000 of those accounted for by the four months of the ski season. The airport saw just shy of 100,000 passengers by the end of October, and when the totals are in at the end of December, 2004 is all but certain to surpass 2003 in passenger numbers.
The county-owned airport will see the launch next summer of a second phase of improvements totaling $17.6 million. The airport's luggage check-in and security screening area was expanded in late 2003. In 2005, the passenger holding area and concessions will be expanded, and passenger drop-off areas will be improved.
In addition to the Cincinnati flight, Steamboat was able to convince several airlines to add seats specifically for the busy holiday period and again during Presidents Day weekend in February.
For example, Delta will add daily flights from Atlanta to its regular Saturday flight, Dec. 26 to 29 only. And Continental will add a few flights from Houston and Newark, N.J., specifically to increase holiday capacity.
The once-a-week flight from Cincinnati will depart Saturday afternoons and return to Ohio on Sunday mornings. However, Delta's initial success last winter with daily flights between Salt Lake City, Utah, and YVRA, as well as a weekly flight from Atlanta, figure prominently into plans for the Cincinnati service.
Andy Wirth, vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said the weekly flight from Cincinnati is intended to work in concert with the daily Salt Lake flights. The option of returning to Cincinnati via Salt Lake City any day is essential to making service effective, he said.
There are several direct flights a day from Salt Lake to Cincinnati, offering travelers multiple options for their flights home.
"The Atlanta-Saturday nonstop proved to be a tremendous success last year, and part of what made it work was the existence of the daily 737 into Salt Lake City," Wirth said.
Ski area and airline executives had discussed the possibility of a second weekly flight from Atlanta, but YVRA is unable to handle additional 757s during the middle of busy weekend days. Timing the flights is tricky because, to be effective, they must connect with banks of flights arriving at hub airports at their city of origin.
Delta proposed the Cincinnati flight to the ski area, and its willingness to leave the aircraft parked overnight in the Yampa Valley helped to make it feasible.
The flight is scheduled to leave Cincinnati at 4:40 p.m. Saturdays, arriving at YVRA at 5:55 p.m. The return flight is scheduled to depart Hayden for Cincinnati at 9 a.m., arriving at 2 p.m.
The Cincinnati airport also serves travelers driving to the airport from nearby Louisville, Ky., and is a connecting hub for Delta flights arriving from the Eastern Seaboard.
The busiest carrier at YVRA on a year-round basis is United, with several flights a day from Denver accounting for 25,874 passengers in 2003. However, American Airlines, with daily ski season jets from Chicago and Dallas, accounts for the most ski season passengers.
-- almost 25,000. Continental operates direct flights from Houston and Newark, N.J., and Northwest flies to YVRA daily from Minneapolis.
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