Inaugural Southwest Airlines flight lands at Yampa Valley Regional Airport
HAYDEN — Rob Perlman and Todd Shallan made their way on the icy tarmac to watch the arrival of a moment years in the making.
The two men, Perlman, the CEO of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., and Shallan, the COO of Hospitality at Alterra Mountain Co., the resort’s parent company, were waiting to watch a plane, dubbed Colorado One, touch down at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
When the Southwest Airlines jet, the inaugural flight for the budget carrier to the region, touched down and passed them on the runway Perlman raised his arms and cheered in celebration.
“It’s allowing the resort and the community and the Yampa Valley to connect to the Southwest Airlines network, which is significant,” Perlman said. “They are affordable fares that make it very attractive for families and skiers and riders to make it to Steamboat in an affordable way.”
The flight marked Southwest’s entry into the Yampa Valley, with the Hayden airport becoming one of the first ski towns serviced by the airline. The first flight for the carrier to Montrose Regional Airport servicing Telluride and the surrounding area also left Denver on Saturday morning. If you ask people with the resort, the flight here was first.
The plane, Colorado One, is specially painted with the Colorado Flag and used for special occasions.
The airline will have three daily flights to Denver International Airport and weekend flights to Dallas Love Field Airport and will operate them through the beginning of April.
Mark Shaw, executive vice president and chief legal officer for Southwest Airlines, said adding flights to Northwest Colorado does a lot for the company.
“It connects the valley to lots of other Southwest destinations, and it just expands our service,” Shaw said. “Leisure travel is more important than ever for us, and this is just another great leisure destination Southwest can fly to.”
Steamboat is one of the first ski areas that Southwest has flown to, but Shaw said their coverage is expanding in Colorado. In March, they will add flights to Colorado Springs as well.
“We’re definitely expanding in Colorado, and we’re excited about that,” Shaw said.
The addition of Southwest comes as Delta Airlines has decided to back away from the airport for a season in a cost-saving measure. Airport Director Kevin Booth said Delta plans to return next season.
Despite the loss of Delta, Booth said they have more seats on planes coming to the Yampa Valley than ever before. The airport recently completed a more than $5 million renovation to accommodate the airline as well as expand and upgrade the terminal.
Now with seven gates and five airlines — six next year when Delta resumes travel — the airport has become increasingly attractive to airlines because of its relatively low elevation and long runway.
Perlman said they are always trying to get more airlines to service the Yampa Valley, but feel good about having several major carriers already.
He said a lot of factors go into convincing an airline like Southwest to add Steamboat to its rotation. A lot of it has to do with the location of Steamboat and the Yampa Valley in general, the connection between the resort and the community, and the demand created by people wanting to get on the slopes.
Perlman said leisure travel is going to be the first to recover after the pandemic because people want to get out after being shuddered in during the pandemic.
“People want to go to places where it is wide-open spaces: ski areas, national parks,” Perlman. “It is only fitting that we attract an airline to do their inaugural flights during a pandemic.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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