Daily roundtrips to Denver from Yampa Valley Regional Airport drop to two for summer

Tom Ross
United Express daily roundtrips on the Q400 turboprop between Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Denver will be reduced to two instead of the the three that operated during the heart of the summer in 2014.
Tom Ross

— Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. officials confirmed to the Routt County commissioners this month that airline service between Yampa Valley Regional Airport and Denver International will be limited to two roundtrip flights a day on turboprops even during the heart of the summer resort season. However, they hinted that beyond 2016, United Airlines has plans to reconfigure its United Express service based at the Denver hub.

The two daily roundtrips are one fewer than YVRA saw to Denver from June 2 to Aug. 18, 2014. Perlman said other mountain airports in Colorado, with the notable exception of Aspen, are experiencing similar cuts.

A search of the United Airlines site reflects that roundtrip flights in mid-July show departures from DIA bound for Hayden at 11:05 a.m. and 10:05 p.m. The late flight to Hayden would turn around for an 8:20 a.m. departure the next day.

The second departure of the day from Hayden is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Quoted fares are $440, the same as they are for someone flying to YVRA from Chicago via Denver.

“We will struggle (with United Express Service) for another year,” Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. Senior Vice-President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman told the county commissioners. “In the third quarter of 2016, Denver is the last (United) hub scheduled to affect some changes in the United Express product. I think we’ll see some changes in reliability.”

Perlman’s comments about future service on the Denver route mesh with reports at several airline industry websites reporting that Republic Airlines, which is contracted to serve the Denver/Yampa Valley route with the 71-passenger Q-400 turboprop, is planning to retire that airframe along with its 50-passenger jets by the end of September 2016.

Republic reportedly will focus on jets like the 100-passenger Embraer 175. One rationale is that the ratio of crew expense to capacity is more economical in the larger aircraft. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Republic would continue to serve YVRA only with more modern aircraft.

Perlman and Ski Corp. airline program director Janet Fischer reported in April to the board of the Local Marketing District, which oversees expenditure of public monies used to contract airline service, that they had told United flight planners at company headquarters in Chicago that winter service to and from Denver by Republic using the Q400 had fallen far short of their expectations due to numerous delays, canceled flights and baggage problems. They lobbied for a change in service.

Ironically, jet service to and from Denver operated by Trans States Airlines will be in place for the last two weeks in June after YVRA re-opens June 15 following a runway repaving project. But it returns to the Q400 service in July.

“If we want to control aircraft and carrier, it’s get our checkbook out and never put it away,” Perlman said this month.

Fischer suggested that the fact that summer flights from Houston on a 50-passenger jet (secured with LMD flight revenue guarantees) are being increased from last year’s four weekly roundtrips to daily flights will help to offset some of the capacity lost to the reduction of roundtrips to Denver.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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