Money needed to secure flights in Vail

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The Eagle Air Alliance wants a $30,000 pledge from the town of Vail in order to secure flight programs at the airport next year, but some Vail Town Council members want more proof in the numbers that the return on investment would be worth it.

Kent Myers, the director of the alliance, a nonprofit public-private partnership that works to attract and maintain air service at the Eagle County Airport, presented a draft of the alliance’s three-year strategic plan to the Vail Town Council on Tuesday. The draft shows plans for Toronto, Washington and San Francisco winter flights in 2012-13 as well as plans for increased service in future years to cities like Chicago, Houston and Dallas.

The pledge is what Myers takes to the negotiating table with airlines. He negotiates a cap — a number the alliance will pay to the airline if the air program loses money — and needs the support of local governments and businesses in order to negotiate that dollar amount.

If a flight program costs $300,000, for example, and Myers negotiates a $100,000 cap, it means the alliance will pay as much as $100,000 for the program’s losses but no more than that amount.

Myers wouldn’t need the $30,000 from the town of Vail until after the flight program is finished and the losses, if any, can be measured.

Council member Susie Tjossem asked Myers whether he has approached Aspen, either the town or the ski company, about their share. Estimates show that as much as 25 percent of the traffic into the Eagle County Airport could be heading to Aspen.

But because Aspen has its own airport, Myers has said getting money from them is much harder. He points out that the 25 percent of business that comes through the airport and leaves the county isn’t of any consequence because those people are still buying seats on the plane, which is what contributes to the success of an air program.

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