2 airlines will service Yampa Valley Regional Airport this spring and summer

Passengers step off of a Southwest Airline flight at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For the first time, multiple airlines will have daily flights to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden long after the last flake of Champagne Powder falls.

Southwest Airlines announced Thursday its summer schedule, which will include service daily to Denver International Airport and weekend flights to Dallas Love Airport. These flights are in addition to three daily flights between Hayden and Denver offered by United Airlines.

“The expanded Southwest Airlines service from Dallas and Denver through the off-season and this summer are a testament to the continued success and the entire community’s commitment to the airline program,” said Rob Perlman, president and COO of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.

The Southwest flights will run from April 8 to May 31 five days a week and then switch to daily flights from June 3 to Aug. 16. United’s flights will be on a larger plane that includes both first and economy class and will have a substantial increase in seats compared to previous non-peak season flights.

Southwest first started flying into Hayden in December of last year, the culmination of years of work to get the budget carrier in the market.

Adam Decaire, Southwest’s vice president of network planning, said the airline is thrilled to expand this service, because travelers are seeking markets with access to the outdoors after being cooped up during the pandemic.

“Thanks to our strong partnership, we’re looking forward to connecting more customers from across the Southwest network with all the great spring and summer activities the region has to offer,” Decaire said in a statement.

Typically, United Airlines is the only carrier to service Hayden in the off-season, and the carrier would only fly to and from Denver.

“Thinking about the core of April and May, into the first parts of June, we have never had two airlines, that I can recall,” said Janet Fischer, Ski Corp.’s director of airline programs.

Fischer said the expansion of flights is good not only for visitors coming to the Steamboat Springs area but also for Northwest Colorado locals as well. She said this summer service also does a lot to build relationships with airlines.

The decision by Southwest to continue flights to Hayden into the off-season has a lot to do with the success they had during their first winter season, Fischer said. She added that Southwest also has had good relationships with both members of the airline program and operations teams at the airport.

There was also marketing support, both from the airport in the form of an incentive program, which has continued beyond an initial deal with Southwest, and from the resort itself. Fischer said the brands of the resort and Southwest also match up well.

“Steamboat’s brand is we are strong with families, but we do have a variety of types of people,” Fischer said, adding that some other ski resorts tend to appeal more to people seeking a glamorous experience. “We’re different than Deer Valley and Aspen and some of the others.”

Summer is typically a pretty slow time for air travel locally, with many people choosing to drive to the area instead of fly. Fischer said these flights will offer a different way for visitors to get here and more variety of fares and departure times. The same is true for locals, Fischer said.

“I think a lot of local people like to travel in April and May, and it definitely adds some variety for air service,” Fischer said.

The new service could be a big boost to a local economy trying to make its way back from a pandemic when business would have typically been slow.

“We do weddings and tours and then some airport transfers, but I think the last couple of years we have only had one flight a day and a couple of flights over the hot days,” said Michael Van Vliet, president of Storm Mountain Express, one of the main shuttle services at the Yampa Valley airport.

Van Vliet said when there was larger jet service to the airport in the summer months in previous years, they eventually pulled out, because there were not enough people vying for a ticket. The jets are coming this summer and what matters to Van Vliet is how full they will be.

“We will see what happens,” Van Vliet said. “Hopefully, we’ll capture something out of this, but past histories, it appeared like it could have been successful, but for whatever reason, it didn’t continue.”

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