Passenger numbers at Yampa Valley Regional Airport were up slightly in July over the record numbers of July 2004.
All of the growth last month can be attributed to the daily Continental jet from Houston. Mesa Airlines, flying from Denver as United Express, was down slightly in July. United Express, with four daily turboprops from DIA still carried more than 2.5 times as many passengers as Continental.
Statistics kept by Routt County show 4,914 passengers arrived at YVRA in July. That number compares with 4,824 last year. Arriving passengers on the 50-passenger Continental jet from Houston increased from 1,220 in 2004 to 1,345 in 2005.
"We're very pleased with the overall performance of the Houston flight in its second year," said Janet Fischer, who is the airline program director for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. and manages airline contracts for the summer flights.
Fischer said the financial performance of the flight is more favorable than forecast, but she stopped short of giving specifics.
Routt County does not track how full arriving flights are, but it does report load factors for departing flights. The Continental jets returning to Houston last month averaged 86 percent full.
United Express' load factors on the 37-passenger Dash 8 slipped last month to an average of 72 percent, down from 83 percent in July 2004.
The daily jet service on Continental ends Sept. 6.
Fischer said she is not at liberty to comment directly about Continental's load factors this summer, but she did say a growth of 13 percentage points is a positive sign.
"Although negotiations with Continental have not begun for '06, it puts us in a good place for next summer," Fischer said.
Autumn brings a new range of options at YVRA, with service from Salt lake City on Delta, set to begin Sept. 9. The flights are underwritten by a federal grant.
Delta will operate a 70-passenger jet into YVRA from its Salt Lake hub. The flight is due to arrive here at 12:21 p.m. and turn around for the 70-minute flight to Salt Lake at 1:10 p.m.
Community leaders who have worked to bring the non-ski season Continental and Delta jets here have emphasized that introducing competition into the marketplace should reduce airfares for consumers.
A spot check of fares for two different sample trips to YVRA from Tampa, Fla., provide a snapshot of what air travelers might encounter.
Karen Patterson at Great Escape Travel in Steamboat Springs said a party from Tampa looking for autumn color in the Yampa Valley could depart Tampa on Sept. 14 and return Sept 18 for nearly identical fares of $356.80 on United and $361.80 on Delta.
Someone seeking to escape the late summer humidity of Tampa, but booking much closer in, would find significantly lower fares on United, Patterson said. Her search of fares for a Thursday departure from Tampa and a Monday return turned up a fare of $546.80 on United and $965.80 on Continental.
"In the last month, United has had some fairly decent rates out of Hayden," Patterson said. "I've been using it a lot."