YVRA braces for 3,400 travelers

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Almost 3,400 travelers are expected to flow through Yampa Valley Regional Airport this weekend. Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. officials said the traffic signifies a turnaround in the ski season jet program.

"We weren't thrilled in mid-January," said Andy Wirth, chief marketing officer for Ski Corp. and its parent company, Intrawest. "But we've seen great momentum over the past 30 days. March is up 7 percent (1,700 passengers). That's a terrific number."

The Steamboat ski season air program added Saturday flights on Delta Airlines 757's from New York's JFK Airport and expanded service from LaGuardia this season, part of a 9 percent increase in available seats. But total passenger numbers were only up 3 to 5 percent in December and January, Wirth said.

"The (New York) flights performed well, but some of the flights didn't perform to our targets. In terms of optimal performance, we're seeing that in the February to March time frame," he added.

Wirth said fares into Steamboat from September through December were elevated in part due to the increasing cost of aviation fuel.

Wirth credited airline Program Director Janet Fischer with proposing a package of reduced fares to the airlines immediately after the New Year. The public has responded to the adjusted fares, Wirth said.

Routt County records show the most current monthly passenger numbers in January were up 1,100, to 28,754 arrivals.

Skywest, which flies to YVRA as United Express from Denver and Chicago and as the Delta Connection from Salt Lake City, accounted for much of the growth. But American, which also flies to Steamboat from Chicago and Dallas, was off about 400 passengers.

Fischer said it's difficult to compare the performance of the different routes in January 2008 to January 2007. That's because the addition of new routes has shifted passengers from one airline to another.

Before the addition of the LaGuardia and JFK flights this year, virtually every flight into YVRA carried passengers from the greater New York City area anyway, Fischer said. The new flights undoubtedly picked up some of those passengers, she said.

Similarly, a new United Express flight from Chicago on Saturdays is likely to have affected the flight from O'Hare on American.

Fischer said looking into next month, reservations are particularly strong March 14 to 16 and March 22 to 29.

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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