Winter airline program projected to be $1 million under cap | SteamboatToday.com

Winter airline program projected to be $1 million under cap

Michael Schrantz

Passengers unload from a United Airlines plane at Yampa Valley Regional Airport during the holiday season. The program that attracts flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport is projected to be about $1 million under its cap of $4.78 million for revenue guarantees.

— With information available for about half of the ski season, the program that attracts flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport is projected to be about $1 million under its cap of $4.78 million for revenue guarantees.

That estimate still could swing a couple hundred thousand dollars, depending on numbers for February and March.

While national weather trends hurt the number of passengers flying in Yampa Valley Regional Airport earlier this winter, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Airline Program Director Janet Fischer said, average fares were up, following national trends in leisure market air travel.

Fischer reported to the local marketing district board Friday that actual numbers for February should be available by the end of the month, but the number of seats coming into YVRA currently is forecast to be down 3 percent for the total winter compared to last year while the number of passengers is projected to be down 2 percent.

The difference between the two numbers is attributable to better load factors for the flights that are making it into YVRA.

At the beginning of the ski season, the number of total available seats was projected to be about flat compared to last year, but a number of pre-cancellations and cancellation of big flights (six from Chicago, three from Atlanta and a couple from Dallas and Houston) hurt the total.

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"That definitely dips into our capacity," Fischer said.

The final winter air season flight is from Denver on April 13.

Alaska Airlines' new service from Seattle has performed well in its first year, with three round-trip flights to go in March.

"The new Alaska Airlines flight has not had a cancellation, diversion or significant delay all season," Fischer said.

There is interest on both sides about expanding the program with Alaska Airlines, she added.

In the next four weeks, she said, they will meet with airline partners. The hope is to grow the Los Angeles flight program and expand Saturday capacity from nonstop markets.

Funding for the airline program must be used in a specific order. Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. supplies the first and last sources. If the program comes in under its cap, the savings first would be applied to more than $700,000 that Ski Corp. committed to backstop the program with the chance for additional savings to be applied to the local marketing district's reserves.

The LMD board earlier committed some reserves to securing a Houston flight this summer.

Mike Mooney, of Sixel Consulting Group, presented the results of his firm's report, which he has done before other groups.

It's a seller’s market for network jets that link airports such as YVRA to larger hubs, Mooney said, and network carriers have figured that out.

"There is an expectation that airlines' risk will be mitigated until the route proves itself," he said.

After Mooney's presentation, Scott Bideau, a location-neutral business executive in Steamboat, asked Mooney what next step he could suggest for YVRA.

Mooney suggested applying for a Small Community Air Service Development Grant, which Routt County previously applied for and won for fall air service from Salt Lake City.

The grant can be applied for again but not for the same project, Mooney said, making the narrow focus of the previous grant a boon to any future efforts to apply it toward summer service.

Bideau also addressed the LMD board during general public comment about transparency, community outreach and providing more information.

The campaign for the additional 0.25 percent sales tax for winter air service made promises, Bideau said, and he'd like to see more about what the board plans to do to stabilize the program and its plans for after the tax sunsets.

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz

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