Our View: Houston, we have good news

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Tempering bad news on the airline front this month, a report that the number of passengers arriving at Yampa Valley Regional Airport from Houston in June was up by 42 percent amounts to a big win for community leaders.

Representatives of Routt County, the Steam-boat Springs Chamber Resort Association, the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. and the city of Steamboat Springs have worked for several years to broaden non-ski season airline service.

In an era of turbulence in the airline industry, the growing acceptance of the summer Continental flight service should buffer the Yampa Valley from unexpected changes in flight schedules.

This marks the second summer YVRA has been served by a daily Continental Airlines flight. The 42 percent passenger increase on the 50-passenger jet doesn't generate very big numbers on its own. But the addition of the Houston flight means traveling business executives, performing artists and affluent second-home owners from Texas and beyond have another convenient means of accessing the valley.

Plus, with Continental joining United in the summer game, it means all of us can take advantage of more competitive airfares out of the valley.

Although the difference in price between the carriers is negligible, the fares are much lower than they would be if the two airlines weren't in competition in this market.

If anything, flight options will be even more diverse this fall, when Delta Connection comes to YVRA with a daily flight from Salt Lake City on a 70-passenger jet.

West Coast cities are a quick hop from Salt Lake City, and the frequency of flights to Delta's hub in Atlanta is attractive.

None of these airline alternatives would be available without the Ski Corp.'s well-established working relationship with the airlines. Based on the track record Steamboat has established, airline execs have faith that it will deliver on its contracts.

In particular, without Ski Corp. airline program director Janet Fischer's working as an airline consultant to the resort community for summer and fall service, none of this would be happening.

This month, we got a taste of how suddenly air service can change when we learned United and its United Express partners no longer would fly small jets to Denver during the ski season. Although a daily 737 still is contracted to come here during the ski season, the small jets that made United's hop over the Continental Divide more attractive to vacationing skiers will give way to smaller turboprops.

Air service to the Yampa Valley on United Airlines will be vital as long as it is the dominant player at Denver International Airport. But in recent weeks, the foresight shown by community leaders in developing alternative arrangements with not one, but two airlines for non-ski season flights is keeping business and pleasure travel affordable for all of us.

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