Winter flights show room to improve | SteamboatToday.com

Winter flights show room to improve

Susan Cunningham

Yampa Valley Regional Airport’s first ski season since starting its $17.8 million improvement project passed without a “great deal of problems,” Aviation Director Jim Parker said.

But the winter revealed several opportunities for short-term fixes that could help keep the airport running smoothly until the next phase of improvements starts in spring 2005.

Those fixes may include redesigning the ramp out of the baggage claim, expanding the waiting room, improving signs and using a bigger tent to protect passengers from weather as they wait to check in for their flights.

Two weeks ago, Airport Commission members, county officials and others walked through the airport and discussed what temporary changes should be made.

Routt County Commissioner Dan Ellison said the walk-through was helpful.

“I think we have some things that we can make progress on,” Ellison said. “We need to keep pressing forward.”

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Last week, the Airport Commission continued that discussion, and though no formal decisions have been made, the airport has some directions, Parker said.

“These short-term fixes are something we need to take a look at,” he said. “We need to keep in mind, however, that everything comes with a cost.”

One issue the airport faced this winter was crowding in the holding room. People sometimes filled the room while waiting for flights, especially when flights were delayed or canceled. An option for a temporary expansion would be to move ticket counters closer to security equipment to create a larger holding area, Parker said.

Although the addition of 4,300 square feet to the ticket lobby helped get passengers who were checking in out of cold, snowy weather, some people still spilled outside while trying to get tickets. The temporary tent outside did not always cover the line of passengers, Parker said, so a bigger tent for next winter could be helpful.

Expanding the handicap ramp that exits from the baggage claim area would mean people with baggage carts could use the ramp instead of going back through the ticket lobby and creating a conflict in flow, Parker said. An expanded ski chute would prevent skis from stacking up and make it easier for passengers to claim their skis, he said.

The public address system in the terminal building also needs an upgrade, as announcements made in the ticket lobby and holding room are not heard in the baggage claim area. A few times last winter, passengers waiting for a plane to arrive did not hear that their flight had been delayed or canceled, Parker said.

Reviewing signs around the airport, studying how well vehicle and pedestrian traffic flows, and strengthening customer service training for airport employees also are on the list, Parker said.

Airplanes forced to circle because of a lack of landing space, as well as frustration with crowded areas, will be addressed through the improvement plan. In the second phase, a new ticketing wing with a larger ticket lobby will be built, adding about 20,000 square feet to the building. In the third phase, the current ticketing area will be turned into a second baggage claim area, the second floor will be reconfigured and mechanical systems will be upgraded, Parker said.

— To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com