Holiday flights expected to slip

YVRA anticipates fewer winter bookings

Blythe Terrell
Craig City Council member Ray Beck checks out a new airline check-in stand Thursday evening while touring the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
Matt Stensland

On the 'Net

To view winter flight schedules for Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden, visit the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's Web site. Under the "Vacation Planning" menu, click "Getting Here," then "Flying to Steamboat." Flight schedules also are available through Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.. Follow the "Plan Your Trip" link.

— Ski-season flights begin in earnest this week at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Although a drop in passenger load is expected during the holidays, staff members are working hard to make sure visitors who do come have a smooth ride.

The Yampa Valley Airport Commission met Thursday evening to discuss the season’s outlook before the first non-Denver flights arrive. During a tour before the meeting, Assistant Airport Manager Dean Smith showed off clusters of improvements that are online – or nearly so – at the Hayden facility.

Ski-season flights begin Wednesday with a Northwest Airlines route from Minneapolis/St. Paul. Frontier Airlines, a new addition this year, brings in its first YVRA flight Thursday. A celebration is planned to mark that occasion, Smith said. Flights from Dallas, Chicago, New York, Atlanta and other cities start coming by Saturday.

Flight loads were up a couple of percentage points in November until Thanksgiving week, Chris Diamond, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. president, noted at the meeting. They’re expected to be down 10 to 12 percent, however, for the Dec. 21 to Jan. 4 period, he said. The week before Christmas is most affected by that dip, he said.

“It’s not so much the economy,” Diamond said. “It’s the way schedules worked with the schools.”

He and other commission members said fares were surprisingly low. Diamond noted that he booked a route from YVRA to Tampa, Fla., for $170. Those fares might pump up bookings, commission members said.

“You’re able to vacation for substantially less than last year, so if you’ve got some money, it’s a good deal,” Diamond said.

He said, however, that fares did not drop until after September and October, a crucial booking period for ski vacations. That also was when the economy looked the most gloomy, Diamond said.

When questioned about the guaranteed revenue program agreements with airlines, he said lower fares might mean lower revenues, even if bookings increase.

“I don’t see any way we’re going to avoid paying the caps,” he said. Local businesses and Ski Corp. chip in for the flight program, paying the difference if airlines don’t hit agreed-upon revenues.

Ski Corp. has been ramping up promotions to draw visitors. The company is offering packages that include free lift passes to people who stay a certain number of nights and book through Steamboat Central Reservations. That promotion has been extended through Monday, Ski Corp. spokesman Mike Lane said last week.

Before Thursday’s meeting, Smith guided commission members around YVRA. Upgrades in place include improved flight schedule screens in the terminal lobby, new ticket counters at gates, a new paint job on the larger terminal building and an improved ski chute area for baggage trams.

Free wireless Internet is supposed to be connected this week, Smith said.

YVRA staff members still are looking to kick up advertising in the airport. The Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association still has a space, as do the Moffat County and Hayden Chambers. About 15 lighted advertising panels still are available in the airport baggage claim area and the hallway leading to it.

“We had quite a bit of a drop with the economy,” Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said, adding that some advertisers changed their minds.

Businesses interested in renting ad space can contact Doris Mayhan at 970-276-5021.

“We’d love to have them,” Ruppel said.

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