Yampa Valley Regional Airport manager says United Express flight performance is improving | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley Regional Airport manager says United Express flight performance is improving

— Despite the cancellation of four fights that fell casualty to the snowstorm that blew into Denver on Sunday, the on-time performance and consistency of United Express service to Yampa Valley Regional Airport has been steadily improving since early this month, Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said Monday.

"Overall, it's been going pretty good," Ruppel told the Routt County Board of Commissioners. "The final flight of the day still fluctuates a little bit, but not by six to eight hours like it did a few times."

Ruppel was referring to the last United Express flight of the day, which is scheduled to arrive in Hayden at 10:51 p.m. then remain on the apron overnight to become the first flight to Denver at 6:14 a.m. the following day. There were a number of times in December when that flight arrived in the Yampa Valley in the wee hours of the morning — even as late as 4 a.m. That ended once the airport published a 12:30 a.m. closing time for commercial aviation.

Ruppel said commercial flights cannot land at airports after the hours when airports' rescue and fire stations close. Because YVRA had not previously specified a closing time, it gave United Express the option of pushing its last flight of the evening even further back.

"I think this is better for everyone," Ruppel said about the change. "It really is a turnaround and it's encouraging to see."

Senior Manager of United Express Operations Alicia Gabriel met with resort and community leaders here Feb. 6 during Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.'s Airline Partners Summit. She said her company was determined to improve the consistency of service at YVRA.

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The poor flight performance, attributed primarily to Republic Airlines, which operates the late-night Denver to YVRA trip on behalf of United Express, has caught the ire of passengers as well as county and resort officials. Ruppel expressed frustration with the flight's performance as early as October, and the issues persisted well into the ski season.

At least some change is afoot. Ruppel told the commissioners Monday that, as was the case in 2012, the number of daily flights to and from Denver will drop from four in ski season to just one in early spring before increasing to two roundtrips in June and possibly three roundtrips in July.

In another matter, Ruppel said Monday the walk-through security scanner for passengers is due to be removed by TSA, and security screening will revert to handheld metal detectors and pat-downs.

Ruppel said the change was authorized at the congressional level and was fueled by urgency attached to getting more walk-through screeners in larger airports. The chosen manufacturer cannot build them fast enough to meet demand.

Ruppel said he appealed to Colorado's congressional delegation for a waiver and was rejected.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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