Our View: Hayden airport analysis welcome

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At issue

Summer flights at Yampa Valley Regional Airport

Our view

New effort to determine region’s ability to support expanded service is worthwhile.

Editorial Board, May and June 2013

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The anecdotal evidence of the impact of reduced summer flights into and out of Yampa Valley Regional Airport continues to mount, with everyone from second-home owners and visitors to local business executives lamenting the four-hour drive to Denver International Airport that results from the lack of options and the cost-prohibitiveness of United’s limited non-ski season service out of Hayden.

Although there’s no significant expansion of summertime air service in sight, there’s reason for optimism with YVRA’s soon-to-be-underway analysis of future needs at the regional airport west of Steamboat Springs.

As part of a master plan process, YVRA officials are assembling a team of stakeholders to conduct what essentially will be a needs assessment, and a focus will be on expanded air service. Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern is part of that team, and he said the purpose of the group’s work is clear.

“We have a lot of anecdotal information about the demand for air service during the non-winter months,” Kern said this week. “We have a lot of location-neutral businesses that depend on that airport, but we don’t have any hard data for westbound traffic out of” YVRA.

The data exists, Kern said, but it needs to be compiled and analyzed. With that information in hand, YVRA officials could have a basis with which to approach air carriers and demonstrate a compelling case for why summer flight service should be expanded.

“We have to have the data first,” Kern said. “This is really the first step in that process.”

Even with data in hand, convincing new carriers to offer flights into YVRA during the summer months probably won’t be easy. Carriers tend to be risk adverse, Kern said, which raises logical questions about whether subsidies would be needed to bring new flight options to Hayden. And if subsidies were needed, it begs the question of where that money would come from. City residents recently passed a new sales tax to provide funding for wintertime flight revenue guarantees, and some officials have said those tax receipts cannot be used for non-winter air service.

But we’re content to cross that bridge when, and if, we get there. For the time being, we’re pleased there is an effort underway to seriously examine the needs at YVRA and whether the regional population actually could support additional service.

Comments

walt jones 1 year, 4 months ago

“We have a lot of location-neutral businesses that depend on that airport, but we don’t have any hard data for westbound traffic out of” YVRA."

Westbound traffic??? If he means salt lake I would be more focused on Denver routes. Did he mean eastbound?

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walt jones 1 year, 4 months ago

Mark.

I mentioned many months ago that Republic does cancel frequently throughout the west due to pilot hours and lack of crew. Poor business on their part.

I would wonder why SkyWest didn't pickup the HDN route like in the winter?? Perhaps that should be looked into or negotiated as they have a much better flight crew availability and use CRJ instead of turbo props.

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Brian Smith 1 year, 4 months ago

I agree with Mark, I have had a busy spring traveling for work and the reliability with Republic Air this spring (since ski area closed for season) is by far the worst service I have had in 7 years flying in and out of HDN. Last 6 flights have been delayed by hours if not cancelled, making me start to reconsider what I do for a living. These reliability issues have led up to 6 hour layovers in Denver, as well as me actually driving to Denver to catch a flight instead of using HDN. I sure hope for improvements.

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walt jones 1 year, 4 months ago

Has anyone looked into EGE as an alternative as they have year round non stop to various locales. Also maybe the commision should look into how EGE has established air service in the summer.

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Brian Smith 1 year, 4 months ago

I looked at EGE a couple of times, don't recall the reason, but it wasn't much better of an option for me.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago

Such considerations as basic economics and demand appear to be viewed as irrelevant. What is different between Eagle Airport and Hayden? Starts off with Eagle County having twice the population of Routt County. Continues with EGE being the regional airport that includes Glenwood Springs.

Republic Airlines does not appear to be a generally poorly run company. It would appear likely that they are making business decisions to cancel unprofitable flights or allocating resources to more profitable flights. People can argue they are making bad long term decisions by undermining confidence in their scheduled flights.

People of Routt County do not have some guaranteed right of flights.

We do have local organizations that have lied to the public and would have us believe that a lack of flights will cripple the local economy. These people would have us believe that it is alarming that April and May had thousands of fewer passengers than last year. According to their claims, thousands of fewer passengers would have resulted in millions of dollars reduction to the local economy and a substantial reduction in city sales tax revenues.

But City sales tax revenues actually increased for those months!

The truth is that it doesn't make that much of a difference being able to fly into Hayden.

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Brian Smith 1 year, 4 months ago

May not make much difference to you Scott, but it does to me. Being a location neutral worker, it's damn near essential.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, it doesn't make much of a difference to the local economy if there are thousands fewer passengers flying into and out of Hayden.

If you need year round reliable local flight service then don't live in a county of 24,000 people.

Or how much should the local taxpayers subsidize you for each time you take a local flight?'

And certainly the airlines know how many people with local addresses are flying east or west out of Denver that didn't fly into Denver from Hayden. They already know what sort of load factors to expect with more flights into Hayden.

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walt jones 1 year, 4 months ago

Scott

Hmmm I thought HDN served Moffat County as well especially with the oil and gas and mining industry execs that are coming in and out quite frequently.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 4 months ago

What's the bigger regional with more nearby fliers? Eagle county or Routt County?

So why do you think the airlines are inept and don't know things like passengers with Steamboat addresses that are flying out of DIA without flying in from Hayden?

A modern airline company has a sophisticated operation center that knows the costs of every cancelled flight. Republic is not a few pilots making guesses on what routes to fly each day.

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Melanie Turek 1 year, 4 months ago

Gotta agree with Mark on this one, Scott. The airlines ought to know a heck of a lot about their customers, but United's IT systems are decades old, merged now with equally aged systems from Continental (and the two don't play well together). Their ability to leverage Big Data is poor. Beyond that, they (and other airlines) ignore basic management principles, like giving front-line employees the power to make decisions on behalf of customers (to name just one). So that, even if they HAD the info, they almost certainly wouldn't use it effectively. (United can't even get their website to allow multiple bookings on the same flight to be connected, to indicate that the different record locators represent real people traveling together, for instance; that has significant implications for re-booking, seat changes, and so on.) As to subsidizing flights, I agree with you on the tourism side, but on the location-neutral side, it's a matter of investment--no different from a community deciding to pay for high-speed Internet, strong schools, a killer library, and so on. I don't travel as much as Mark appears to, but I am already sick of the drive to DIA--which I am forced to do to avoid the hassles documented here, and experienced first hand by me in the past. If I were a more frequent traveler who could take my job and move anywhere (which I can), I would think twice about Steamboat, and that has long-term implications for the economy. LN employees tend to make good salaries, have families, and spend $$ and time in their communities. We want them. Having reliable air service is a part of getting them.

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