The decision to begin daily United Airlines 737 service from Denver five days early this ski season paid off. The number of passengers arriving on the flight jumped from 983 in December 2003 to 2,346 in December 2004.
Overall, the number of passengers arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport last month grew from 17,259 in December 2003 to 19,550, according to records kept by Routt County.
Steamboat initiated the United flight Dec. 7 this year, five days earlier than it did last December. Andy Wirth, vice president for marketing at American Skiing Co.'s western resorts, said United and United Express delivered 196 passengers to YVRA on Dec. 8. However, five extra days of service on the 120-passenger 737 alone did not account for United's surge last month, he added.
"United has been very aggressive with airfares and remains very aggressive," Wirth said. "They are pacing well ahead of all the other carriers. In early December, you do have to use prices to drive demand."
United uses commuter airlines Air Wisconsin and Mesa flying as United Express to deliver passengers flying through Denver to the Yampa Valley. The two commuters combined were up 1,300 passengers to 6,600 last month.
American Airlines, flying to YVRA from Dallas and Chicago essentially was flat in December, with 24,911 passengers. Continental, flying to the valley from Newark once a week and Houston daily was down to 2,760 this year from 3,410 last year. Wirth hopes that when January figures are released, the first week of this month will restore Continental's numbers.
Delta Airlines, which launched a new Saturday flight from Cincinnati on a 183-passenger plane this winter, is up modestly from 1,837 December passengers last winter to 1,950 last month. Although the Cincinnati flight is 20 percentage points behind where last year's inaugural flight from Atlanta was at this point, there's ample traffic to justify the flight, Wirth said. The area of concern late this fall was the daily Delta flight from Salt Lake City. The pace of reservations for that flight has rebounded in the past 30 days, Wirth said.