An American Airlines jet originating from Chicago lands at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Although the number of seats from Chicago will be cut significantly this winter season, Steamboat will see gains in flights from Seattle, Los Angeles and Newark.

File photo

An American Airlines jet originating from Chicago lands at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Although the number of seats from Chicago will be cut significantly this winter season, Steamboat will see gains in flights from Seattle, Los Angeles and Newark.

Winter airline seats to Yampa Valley Regional Airport to remain flat this ski season

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— The board that oversees the funding of winter air service at Yampa Valley Regional Airport said last week that the supply of airline seats to and from Steamboat this ski season will stay flat during another grim year for the airline industry.

But board members of the Local Marketing District told the Steamboat Springs City Council the situation would be far worse if voters here had not approved in 2011 a new tax that will support the service with an extra $1.1 million in revenue this year.

“If that (money) was not available, we would have far less air service available to us this coming winter. It's as simple as that,” board member Rod Hanna said, adding that Steamboat remains at the mercy of the airlines. “It's a very difficult environment.”

The Local Marketing District's praise of the tax came after City Council member Sonja Macys asked if the new revenue stream was working.

Local Marketing District Treasurer Bill Stuart said although airline bankruptcies and mergers continue to make it harder to secure more service, the tax indeed has stopped the decline in seats.

"We have stopped the decline, and we are in a position to move back where we were," he said. "For what it costs the community, we get a very good return."

Hanna added that he has heard Steamboat's tax is being viewed in some other Colorado resort communities as a model for success.

The Local Marketing District also went over the upcoming winter flight schedule that will see new flights from Seattle, more seats to and from Los Angeles and Newark but fewer seats from Chicago.

“What we did this year is really tried to match the capacity with the demand so we have more peak seats, and we have fewer off-peak seats,” Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Airline Program Director Janet Fischer said.

As an example, she said the number of seats from Houston will remain flat but a larger aircraft will fly out of the city on Saturdays.

“The positives this season are Seattle, Los Angeles, Newark and rearranging Dallas and Houston for the capacity to better meet the demand on peak days,” Fischer said. “The Chicago flight is the main minus in terms of capacity.”

Service to Chicago is slated to go from a 160 seat 737-800 from the past ski season to a 76-seat E175 narrow body jet, resulting in a 40 percent drop in seats.

Fisher said that was the option Steamboat was given by American Airlines to keep the flight.

The Local Marketing District on Tuesday also presented its proposed operating budget to the council and said because of the winter air program's performance last year, the board has a significant reserve and can consider spending about $250,000 to secure some more flights in the summer.

Those funds would not be coming from the 0.25 percent sales tax that only can be directed to the winter service.

The Ski Corp.’s flight program offers air service from eight major airports using four airlines that include United, Delta, American and Alaskan Airlines.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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Comments

Scott Wedel 7 months, 1 week ago

The sales tax support was passed on the promise of a significant increase in the number of seats. Chamber CEO was quoted in ads promising 140,000 seats and his economic analysis of the impact of having every one of those seats occupied.

And now we are told that the sales tax can only be hoped to buy us the same number of seats?

That is pretty bad because as summer air service shows, we can economically support some number of seats without subsidies. Certainly during the winter the Denver shuttle works without subsidies.

I think it is well past time to consider ending the high cost of subsidizing direct flights from a few distant airports. I think it is likely to overall be more convenient to the flying public to have more flights from Hayden. More often than not when I fly that I drive to DIA because it takes less time than flying from Hayden. Hayden has so few flights that it tends to result in long layovers at DIA.

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Mark Ruckman 7 months, 1 week ago

Scott you have made it clear many times you don't like the tax.

My POV on your comments, I'm sure when the tax was passed it was envisioned to increase the number of seats and the current economic downturn and extensive airline consolidation was unknown even to smart people like yourself.

Yes the summer service shows we can support a fee seats, but 1 or 2 Q400's a day in the winter are not going to fill the rooms, slopes, restaurants and shops with visitors.

Clearly you must not fly often or have a lot of free time, driving to Denver vs. flying (when there is not delayed or cancelled flight) is a massive waste of time. I have been in & out of HDN 40 times this year and the cost to drive vs. fly is about equal until I factor in the value of my time, missed sleep and missed family time. Then I'm upside down going to Denver. Just my 2 cents.

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Scott Wedel 7 months, 1 week ago

The tax was passed in Nov 2011. it sunsets in 2016.

The issues of airline consolidations and bankruptcies were well known and discussed at the time. I see no particular reason to let the public forget that the supporters of this tax sold it on blatantly false projections. The projections of the campaign were proven immediately false.

You obviously have better luck getting connecting flights from Denver closer to when flights arrive from Hayden. It would also appear that you are not primarily flying on the longer direct flights and instead mostly on the shuttles to Denver. So then wouldn't it be more effective to spend more of the money on increasing the frequency of the shuttles and give up some of the direct flights?

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Mark Ruckman 7 months, 1 week ago

In the winter I love the option to fly on the longer direct flights, when possible. If not I connect via Denver or Houston.

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Eric Meyer 7 months, 1 week ago

My wife tried a republic operated flight. Never again. Half the plane left on shuttles to Denver. She waited with a 3 month old baby. When it finally left for Denver she missed that flight and it was not until 12 hours after she was supposed to arrive in Seattle that she finally made it. Spend $500+ for that type of service when a drive to Denver would have gotten her there on time and for less than half the price is a major problem with air service up here.

I recently had an opportunity to get involved with a new company and likely double my business, but it would require site visits around the country. I cannot commit to that without more flights that leave on time, year round.

I am much closer to Scott's views on this one.

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Brian Smith 7 months, 1 week ago

I concur with Mark, pretty important for me to not waste time driving to Denver to fly out. This last spring with Republic has been the most challenging season I have had flying out of HDN in 6 years or so (I actually drove to Denver once, first time in 6 years). In my experience, I have not had significant delays in the layover in DEN unless of course my first Republic flight out of HDN was not delayed or cancelled. After this spring/summer with Republic, I am looking forward to winter season and more direct flights for sure.

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Mark Ruckman 7 months, 1 week ago

The secret for most air travel is to always take the first flight out, majority of the time the last flight of the day will always make it in and the equipment will be available in the AM. This rule applies if you are flying out of HDN / JFK / LAX etc. If you try to follow this rule closely you embrace the 4:30am wake as a way to avoid missed flights and connections.

At all other times of the day you risking the impact of weather, mechanical, delayed crews etc on your connections.

Republic has a little bit bigger problem than larger carriers, they are flying a lot of short flights in and out of Denver. So any time there is weather in Wichita, Denver, Durango etc it begins to back up their flights and the snowball effect takes over. Republic has a huge # of operational issues and when combined with the above weather issues it can get ugly.

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Eric Meyer 7 months, 1 week ago

I agree with the first flight being the least likely to have issues. Republic cannot even get their first flight off the ground. That approx. 6:00 am flight was the one that messed up my wife's whole day. By the time it took off, she could have driven to Denver. Not one penny of tax money should support Republic. They are doing more damage to this town's flight reputation than having them there is helping.

I would like to see a survey from visitors using the flights to see if they would fly in directly to Steamboat again. What is our "turn over rate". Fool me once......Fool me twice.....

I also would love to see the percentages of Republics flights in/out of HDN that were delayed or canceled.

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Robert Huron 7 months, 1 week ago

You are right Republic is a disaster. I had relatives coming to Steamboat in August. They arrived in DEN on time from NY. When they got to the HDN gate they were told it was delayed 1 hour waiting on crew to arrive. Found out later they used the HDN crew on another flight then had to cancel the flight which was full because they did not have a replacement crew. This also cancelled the 620am flight in the morning which was also full. We had to drive to Denver in the morning to pick them up because they could not get them out till the following evening. They also had to pay for their own hotel and they were refused a refund for the HDN flight. I hate driving to Denver for a flight but it is the only way you can be assured to make your flight out of Denver after ski season ends. Republic charges an additional $200+ round trip to fly to Denver which is considerably more than parking at the airport and you don't have to worry about making your connection or getting stranded.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 7 months, 1 week ago

We never consider Hayden as a choice if it's not ski season. Would rather just drive to DIA and believe that we have a better chance of getting to where we need to go then flying out of Hayden and hoping we will get to our destination as planned. Any friends or family coming out. If it's not ski season, we tell them DIA. we will come and get them. Bonus is we can hit Costco, Target etc.

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scott bideau 7 months ago

I highly encourage everyone to write to the CEO of United. Specifically tell him that, due to their performance of his airline at HDN, you instead drive to DIA and use an alternate carrier. That last part (alternate carrier) is very important. Include some exhibits of how much money you spent on those tickets. Give them a monetary reason to listen and change.

Better yet, carbon copy the CEO of Southwest, Frontier, and American with a little note prefacing that there is money to be made by outperforming United. Copy Skywest so they can include it in their next bid to replace Republic as the subcontracted operator.

Will a few letters do anything? Probably not, but I'm trying to launch a significant study for delivery to those CEO's desk about the unserved demand for more reliable flights at HDN, and the anecdotal evidence coming first wouldn't hurt.

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