Winter airline seats to Yampa Valley Regional Airport to remain flat this ski season | SteamboatToday.com

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

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

— 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.”

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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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