Delta lands fall service

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Delta Airlines has agreed to serve Yampa Valley Regional Airport with daily jet flights from Salt Lake City this fall.

"I know that Delta is excited to be at Hayden," said Riley Polumbus, communications director for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort As----sociation. "Honestly, they were selling this to us."

The push to bolster the Yampa Valley's commercial air service has been a joint effort of the business community, Routt County, which owns the airport, and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. A three-year federal grant is underwriting the cost of airline revenue guarantees needed to land the flights.

Polumbus said there had been negotiations with Continental Airlines to provide the fall service. That would have represented a continuation of Continental's daily summer flights from Houston on 50-passenger jets. Although the financial aspects of negotiations with Continental and Delta were similar, Continental could promise only four flights a week in the fall, Polumbus said. Delta upped the ante by offering daily flights on a 70-passenger aircraft.

Polumbus acknowledged that there are downsides to having to work to build public awareness of the new Delta flight this fall, but she thinks there will be an advantage from rolling Delta's fall service over to its ski-season flights from Salt Lake City.

"It's kind of a cold start, but at the same time, Delta is on our side with this," Polumbus said. "There are really two things we want to market with this. We want to make hunters aware they have this new way to get here. We also want to make local travelers aware of the possibilities."

Yampa Valley residents will discover that Delta offers convenient connections to destinations such as Las Vegas, Nevada and Southern California, Polumbus said.

Continental's hub in Houston offers connections to about 100 cities, she said, but Delta offers connections out of Salt Lake City to a broader geographic region, including Texas and Atlanta.

Continental's proposed four-day service would have posed limitations for travelers trying to plan their departure and return dates.

Flight schedules for the Delta service have not been released.

Continental's summer service to Houston begins June 9 and continues through Sept. 5. Flights are scheduled to arrive in the Yampa Valley at 7:16 p.m. and return to Houston the next mornings at 8:45 a.m.

United Express is operating seven daily flights to and from Denver this summer. The first flights of the morning are scheduled to depart for Denver at 6:40 and 6:55 a.m.

Routt County was awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in September 2004. The money will be used to expand on year-round airline service during the next three years. A group of community leaders from Craig, Hayden, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association and Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. resolved to pursue additional service between Labor Day and the beginning of ski-season jet flights.

Yampa Valley Regional Air--port already is served year-round by United Express flights from Denver operated by Mesa Airlines and Air Wisconsin.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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