Ski season fliers up 8 percent |

Ski season fliers up 8 percent

Increase in Chicago traffic warrants larger aircraft for '05-'06

Steamboat’s winter airline program will work with a target budget of $1.95 million this ski season as it attempts to match or exceed the winter’s 8 percent growth in passengers.

The growth in inbound passengers last winter outpaced a 3 percent increase in airline capacity, Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Vice President of Marketing Andy Wirth recently told the Yampa Valley Airport Commission. The 142,592 available seats produced 98,641 passengers, an increase of 7,000. At the same time, the fiscal performance of the flights brought the program in under budget. The level of airline revenue guarantees needed to secure the flights on American, United, Continental, Northwest and Delta airlines was projected at $1.85 million. When the final returns were in, the actual cost was $1.59 million. The difference will be returned on a prorated basis to contributors, which include Ski Corp., the city of Steamboat Springs, the lodging community, restaurants and the other business supporters brought together under the banner of the “Fly Steamboat” program.

Next winter marks the first time the funding formula will be reworked under the influence of the new local marketing district, created by the city last November to generate lodging taxes to provide a stable funding source for the airline program. The LMD will supply about $700,000 of next winter’s budget with Fly Steamboat contributing about $155,000 and Ski Corp. making up the difference.

Wirth said the daily Boeing 737 from Chicago on American Airlines last winter was the air program’s star performer, leading a switch this coming winter to a larger Boeing 757. The upgrade will add 4,800 inbound seats from the Midwest.

An increase in arriving ski vacationers from Florida last winter helped to offset a sharp decline in visitors from Southern California, Wirth said. Arrivals from all of the significant Florida markets were up, Wirth said. Fort Lauderdale was Steamboat’s top market out of Florida last winter, followed closely by Tampa/St. Petersburg.

California enjoyed snow conditions that many deemed the best in a century, Wirth said, and all Colorado ski resorts suffered as a result. The decline in passengers arriving from California at YVRA was measurable. For example, San Francisco produced 34 percent fewer passenger than in 2003, with numbers dropping from 1,222 to 802, Wirth said.

The greater New York area remains Steamboat’s biggest market. When Connecticut,

New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are included, the area accounts for 9 percent of ski-season passengers.

Steamboat participated in a survey last winter with airports in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Telluride, Montrose and Gunnison-Crested Butte. The survey, conducted by RRC Associates in Boulder, was intended to provide YVRA supporters with some benchmarks by which to measure anticipated gains in customer satisfaction as Routt County continues with the second and third phases of improvements to the terminal at YVRA.

The RRC survey shows that passengers perceive availability of flights and airfares into YVRA to be better than average. However, they gave YVRA low marks relative to the other ski-town airports in terms of seating availability and concession services. Both of those areas are being addressed during the second phase of the terminal improvements.

Yampa Valley Airport Com–missioner Ulrich Salzgeber said the airport has seen a noteworthy improvement in customer service since Ann Copeland was hired as “landside airport manager” last year.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with a 1 representing extreme dissatisfaction and a 10 representing extreme satisfaction, YVRA earned low 6s for concessions and high 6s for gate area seating. The airport scored high sevens for overall airport experience and efficiency of check-in. Airport terminal cleanliness scored just below an 8.

The survey revealed that of the 98,641 passengers who arrived at the airport last ski season, 89 percent were visitors and the remaining 11 percent were permanent residents or second-home owners.