No Houston flight, expanded Denver service among changes at Yampa Valley Regional Airport this summer
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Expanded service to Denver as well as the loss of a direct flight between Houston and Hayden are among changes to Yampa Valley Regional Airport’s summer flight program.
From now through June 5, the airport will offer two daily flights from Denver on most days.
From June 6 through Aug. 19, three daily flights will run between Denver and Hayden, with exceptions on certain dates. This is an increase from last summer, when the airport offered two flights from Denver during its busier summer months.
United Airlines added these flights after it canceled its summer service from Houston, according to Airport Director Kevin Booth.
“We didn’t know United was going to do that, but it was good news,” he said about the additional daily flight.
Booth hopes the expanded service from Denver will give visitors a chance to schedule connecting flights from other cities.
“It’s not as convenient, but it still gives us the same number of seats coming in every day,” he said.
United Airlines halted its nonstop service from Houston after Steamboat voters chose in November not to renew a tax that funded the airline program. The estimated $1.3 million in annual revenue from the 0.2% sales tax would have helped incentivize airlines to bring in direct flights. The money acts as a type of subsidy for companies, like United, that take risks bringing direct flights to more rural areas.
Canceling the Houston service, which began in summer 2014, was the first casualty of the air tax not passing.
“It’s an interesting change for us,” said Booth, who will be tracking how it affects passenger counts.
While the future of the air program remains uncertain, the airport saw a positive boost in passengers during March compared with last year. More than 28,000 visitors departed from the airport last month, compared with about 23,000 people in March 2018.
Janet Fischer, director of the airline program for the ski area, pointed to better snow conditions, the Ikon Pass and more nonstop service from major cities as reasons for the bump in visitation.
Those included three new flights from Jet Blue, which became the newest airline to schedule flights out of the airport this winter with direct service from Boston, Fort Lauderdale and Long Beach.
Funds from the air program also have gone toward bringing in more visitors.
According to its 2018 annual report, Steamboat’s Local Marketing District spent $300,000 in 2018 to market expanded winter service to the airport plus another $75,000 budgeted for summer flights. That is in addition to the $2.5 million to $3 million Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. spends each year as part of its air service marketing, airline programs and international campaigns, according to the report.
The Local Marketing District, which oversees funds for commercial flight service into the airport, projected the air program still has about $612,000 in reserve funds through a 2% lodging tax. Ski Corp. also contributes about one-third of the air program’s budget, or $1.6 million for 2018.
Fischer said community groups, including the Local Marketing District, are continuing to meet to determine future options for the program.
Some construction projects have broken ground at the airport, and those with vacation plans over the coming months should be aware of consequent changes. A project to add a new terminal at the airport will close the snack bar in the waiting area as well as Gates 4 and 5.
“If passengers want to get food or coffee, they should get it before they go through TSA,” Booth said.
The closures will not affect summer flights, which typically load at Gates 2 and 3, according to Booth.
After its completion, the new terminal will allow an additional airline to offer flights and improve the flow of passengers moving from the security check to their respective gates.
The airport also has been working on a complete rebranding campaign with Hive180, a local marketing and advertising company. Officials recently finalized a new logo design, which Booth plans to unveil in the next month or two. The rebranding campaign also includes a revamped website and a new sign along U.S. Highway 40.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There is a chill in the air, and snow covers the ground outside a farmhouse west of Hayden as Noah Price and Sydney Ellbogen talk about the operations of Mountain Bluebird Farm.