January was busiest in decade at airport

Airport may top 100,000 arrivals

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— There are signs at Yampa Valley Regional Airport that the ski season is celebrating its last hurrah.

Arriving flights were a little less than half full Monday and Tuesday, and more than 1,000 passengers departed. However, records from earlier in the ski season suggest this could be one of the busiest season of the decade at the airport.

Data kept by airport officials about arriving passengers indicate the airport west of Steamboat Springs is probably within range of 100,000 arriving passengers for the four complete months of the ski season.

"We have about 4 percent fewer airline seats this year; however, the number of passengers is up over last year," said Janet Fischer, airline program director for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

The airport welcomed 99,630 arrivals from December 2004 to March 2005.

This ski season, the airport experienced the busiest December and January of this decade; however, February couldn't quite match the numbers for last year, when 28,380 passengers arrived at YVRA. February's totals this year were 26,865.

December and January combined to more than offset the decline. December, with 20,923 arrivals, was almost 1,400 passengers ahead of last year. And January, with 24,720 arrivals, was the busiest January of the decade.

March 2005, with 27,937 arrivals, was the second busiest of the decade but still not close to March 2000, when 31,138 people disembarked at YVRA.

The cards were stacked against YVRA pushing through the 100,000 barrier for ski season after United Express carrier Air Wisconsin took its small jets out of the market this winter. Air Wisconsin flew 15,000 passengers into the Yampa Valley last ski season. An increase in capacity on the other Untied Express carrier, Mesa Airlines, resulted in it doubling the number of passengers it brought to YVRA. However, United Express still fell about 7,000 passengers short of last winter through February.

"The flights we had performed very well," Fischer said. "We're wrapping up a successful season."

In the end, Fischer said the best measuring stick for the ski season airline program is revenue, not bodies in airline seats.

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