Aspen winter air service up

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— Airline service at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport this winter will be up 14 percent, based on the scheduled flights as the resort heads into the ski season.

And travelers flying in and out of Aspen this winter on commercial airlines will enjoy strictly jet service, as well as some consistent baggage fees from all three airlines serving the airport.

Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass and the resort's liaison to the airline industry, has provided an update to the current state of affairs for the local airline industry as ski season commences.

Beginning Dec. 5 and continuing throughout the winter, all United Express flights into Sardy Field will be operated by SkyWest Airlines with their CRJ-700s, according to Tomcich. Mesa's 37-passenger Dash-8 turboprops are not scheduled to return to Aspen until next spring's schedule takes effect on April 6. That means all commercial flights into Aspen this winter will be operated either with SkyWest's regional jets or with Frontier's new Q400s jets.

Delta Air Lines, having officially merged with Northwest Airlines on Oct. 29, announced earlier this month a realignment of their fees and policies to be consistent with those at Northwest Airlines. Instead of the first checked bag being free, and the second checked bag being $50, the charge for the first checked bag now will be $15, and the second checked bag will be $25 each way.

United Airlines reacted by announcing that they would rescind their plans to increase their second checked bag fee from $25 to $50 each way.

That means all three airlines serving Aspen this winter - United, Delta and Frontier - will be consistent with their charges for the first and second checked bags, at $15 and $25 each way respectively. Charges for bags in excess of two and overweight bags still vary by carrier.

Aspen now has more than 200,000 seats scheduled this upcoming winter from December to April as a result of several recent additions and upgrades. That not only represents a 14 percent overall increase from last year, but it also will be the most seats offered into Aspen since the 1997-'98 ski season, Tomcich said.

He also noted that when compared against nearly every other leisure destination, Aspen is definitely faring better than most. Tomcich said with falling oil barrel prices and lower demand, fare prices are likely to drop.

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