Our View: Hayden airport analysis welcome | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Hayden airport analysis welcome

The anecdotal evidence of the impact of reduced summer flights into and out of Yampa Valley Regional Airport continues to mount, with everyone from second-home owners and visitors to local business executives lamenting the four-hour drive to Denver International Airport that results from the lack of options and the cost-prohibitiveness of United's limited non-ski season service out of Hayden.

Although there's no significant expansion of summertime air service in sight, there's reason for optimism with YVRA's soon-to-be-underway analysis of future needs at the regional airport west of Steamboat Springs.

As part of a master plan process, YVRA officials are assembling a team of stakeholders to conduct what essentially will be a needs assessment, and a focus will be on expanded air service. Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association CEO Tom Kern is part of that team, and he said the purpose of the group's work is clear.

"We have a lot of anecdotal information about the demand for air service during the non-winter months," Kern said this week. "We have a lot of location-neutral businesses that depend on that airport, but we don't have any hard data for westbound traffic out of" YVRA.

The data exists, Kern said, but it needs to be compiled and analyzed. With that information in hand, YVRA officials could have a basis with which to approach air carriers and demonstrate a compelling case for why summer flight service should be expanded.

"We have to have the data first," Kern said. "This is really the first step in that process."

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Even with data in hand, convincing new carriers to offer flights into YVRA during the summer months probably won't be easy. Carriers tend to be risk adverse, Kern said, which raises logical questions about whether subsidies would be needed to bring new flight options to Hayden. And if subsidies were needed, it begs the question of where that money would come from. City residents recently passed a new sales tax to provide funding for wintertime flight revenue guarantees, and some officials have said those tax receipts cannot be used for non-winter air service.

But we're content to cross that bridge when, and if, we get there. For the time being, we're pleased there is an effort underway to seriously examine the needs at YVRA and whether the regional population actually could support additional service.

At issue

Summer flights at Yampa Valley Regional Airport

Our view

New effort to determine region’s ability to support expanded service is worthwhile.