Airline adds flights

Reservations point to busy holiday week

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Andy Wirth is cautioning against complacency among members of the resort community. Wirth, vice president of marketing for the Steamboat Ski Area, said advance airline reservations indicate the holiday period could be among the busiest Steamboat Springs has experienced.

"Get ready," Wirth said. "We're headed toward a very, very busy Christmas week. We're encouraging businesses to hire up, so that collectively, we can provide the best Steamboat experience possible. Don't be complacent."

Airline reservations from Dallas are strong enough that American Airlines announced this month it would add four roundtrips on Boeing 757's for Dec. 26 and 27 and Jan. 2 and 3.

"We were basically sold out Dec. 26 and 27, and we know we can drive tremendous demand," with the additional flights, Wirth said.

The flight additions bring to 17 the number of special flights arranged to account for a holiday calendar that sees Christmas Day and New Year's Day fall on Sundays. In aggregate, they represent 2,880 seats over and above the typical weekly flight schedule.

The ski area staff negotiates contracts with five airlines for the ski season flight program. Throughout ski season, the most flights always arrive on Saturdays, according to consumer preferences. Some flights operate only on Saturdays.

However, Airline Program Manager Janet Fischer said historic travel patterns reflect consumers' desires to stay home for Christmas Day and leave for their holiday ski vacations Dec. 26 and 27, returning home right after New Years Day, on Jan. 2 and 3. When Christmas falls on a Saturday or Sunday, many vacationers pass up the Saturday flights, then struggle to get reservations in the days immediately after the holiday.

Fischer and Wirth recognized the challenge presented by the calendar early in the process and already had secured more flights from other airlines to meet the anticipated demand.

Yampa Valley Regional Air--port (Hayden/Steamboat) will see extra flights on Continental from Houston, and on Delta from Atlanta on Dec. 26, in addition to the recently announced Dallas flight.

Dec. 27 will show an extra flight from Newark, N.J., on Continental, in addition to the other three cities.

Continental will fly an extra roundtrip from Houston on a 155-passenger 737-800 on Dec. 28, and again Jan. 1.

Jan. 2 and 3 will see extra flights from Dallas, Houston, Newark and Atlanta. Those flights are in place primarily to allow vacationers to get home conveniently.

The Newark flights are on 124-passenger 737-700s. American will operate a 188-passenger 757, and Delta flies a 183-passenger 757 from Atlanta.

Wirth said the resort has persuaded airlines to add extra flights around the holidays for several years, but never had the success with high-load factors it is experiencing already this winter. He said the ski area marketing department would embark upon a three-pronged approach to make sure there is awareness of the American flights at this late date.

First, he said, the ski area got the word out quickly to the resort's property management companies so they could alert their contacts. Second, promotions went out to the travel industry, and finally, the ski area quickly launched an extensive e-mail campaign to its customer base.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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