Yampa Valley Regional Airport ramp agent Kirklann Baker waves in a Frontier Airlines plane in December 2008. The airline has announced it will not return to YVRA during the 2009-10 ski season, but officials did not rule out a return in future winters.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Yampa Valley Regional Airport ramp agent Kirklann Baker waves in a Frontier Airlines plane in December 2008. The airline has announced it will not return to YVRA during the 2009-10 ski season, but officials did not rule out a return in future winters.

Frontier cuts YVRA service

Tentative flight schedule reflects 12 percent drop in capacity

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— Frontier Airlines is scooting its animal-adorned tail out of the Yampa Valley after its first ski season here.

Frontier won't fly to Yampa Valley Regional Airport this winter, spokesman Steve Snyder confirmed Wednesday. Snyder said Frontier could return for future ski seasons. The Denver-based airline, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, added flights from Denver to the Hayden airport last season.

"This particular year there are a couple factors at work," Snyder said. "First, the market didn't really perform like we were hoping for, expecting for, last year, and we only have a limited number of aircraft, and we think there are some better opportunities for them."

The airline flew to YVRA from December to April using Bombardier Q400 aircraft operated by Lynx Aviation. On Monday, Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings announced that it planned to buy Frontier. Frontier and Lynx would become wholly owned subsidiaries of Republic.

Andy Wirth, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.'s senior vice president of marketing, and other Ski Corp. officials work with airlines to schedule flights each season. The resort and local businesses pay to guarantee a certain amount of revenue to airlines that fly to YVRA. Frontier wasn't part of that program.

Passenger numbers were down overall at YVRA in 2008-09. December through March deplanements, or arriving passengers, decreased 14.7 percent compared with the same period in 2007-08. December through March enplanements, or departing passengers, decreased 12.5 percent.

Wirth said 2009-10 flight capacity is 12 percent less than in 2008-09. That's compared with flights loaded in June 2008 and doesn't necessarily account for adjustments airlines made during the season, Wirth said. It also doesn't include last year's Frontier seats.

YVRA expects to see about 139,000 round-trip seats this year, compared with about 158,000 last year. Those numbers are comparable to the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons, Wirth said. They're higher than 2005-06 numbers.

"We recognize this is a step backward, but we think it's prudent," Wirth said.

American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines and United Airlines flew to YVRA in 2008-09. Those airlines are scheduled to return. Delta acquired Northwest last year.

Ski season flights will come in from Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Salt Lake City and Newark, N.J.

"We think it's very ample capacity to maintain Steamboat's accessibility," Wirth said.

Last year, airfares spiked during the key booking season because of soaring oil and jet fuel prices. They later dipped along with the economy. This year, Wirth has said he expects fares to be more reasonable.

A spot check shows that a round-trip American Airlines ticket from Chicago to Hayden from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, 2010, is about $490. A round-trip Continental ticket from Houston to Hayden for the same time frame is about $453.

Wirth attributed Frontier's challenges partly to its late entry into the Steamboat market last year and to its having too much capacity. Frontier started with three daily Denver flights.

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said he appreciated Frontier's presence.

"We enjoyed having the additional service up here," he said. "I think it was a challenge for them competing with the ones that had been here."

Snyder said Frontier would continue flights to destinations including Aspen, Colorado Springs and Durango. The company will discontinue its Grand Junction flights, he said. Snyder wasn't able to say how the acquisition by Republic might affect routes.

"It's probably still early in the process to tell," he said. "What we've talked about from the beginning ... Frontier and Lynx will continue to operate as we have."

Ruppel said he was sorry to see Frontier go.

"As far as the community goes, the more opportunities and options we can provide in the valley, the better we are," he said.

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