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Yampa Valley Regional Airport reports solid winter numbers ahead of major changes

The Yampa Valley Regional Airport recorded increases in passenger counts this winter compared to last year ahead of several major changes, among them a terminal expansion project and the addition of Southwest Airlines.
File photo/Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With a little over a month remaining for the 2019-20 winter season in Steamboat Springs, airplane passenger counts are up from last year’s numbers.

The Yampa Valley Regional Airport has seen about 2,500 additional passengers pass through its doors compared to last year, according to an update from Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.’s Airline Program Director Janet Fischer during a Local Marketing District on Friday, Jan. 28. That is commensurate with an increase in available seats on flights, which is attributed to airlines using larger aircraft on flights to and from Hayden.

The improved numbers come amid several major changes at the airport, which include a $3.2 million terminal expansion and the addition of Southwest Airlines to its roster of carriers. 

The Dallas-headquartered airline announced Monday, Feb. 24, it would start serving the local airport by the next winter season, according to a news release. The service is slated to begin with seasonal, daily flights to and from Denver, with possible expansions being unveiled in the coming months. 

When Fischer announced the introduction of Southwest during the LMD meeting, calling it the culmination of five years of work, it garnered a round of applause from her fellow board members and colleagues.

“That’s a huge, huge accomplishment for this group and our air program,” Ski Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Perlman said.

He added the local airport would be the first and only mountain airport in Colorado to offer service with Southwest.  

Airport Director Kevin Booth said the terminal expansion, slated to begin in April, could not come at a better time. The addition of Southwest brings with it the challenge of accommodating more passengers and their baggage. 

The airline has gained a reputation for its policy of allowing up to two free checked bags, with a pair of skis, a snowboard, a set of poles or a pair of boots counting as one checked bag. 

“That’s great. We’re really happy about it, but we need to be prepared to process those bags,” Booth said. 

With planes accommodating 150 seats and more, the airport is in the process of enhancing its bag-checking process, he said. The new terminal should reduce congestion, which a 2017 report identified as one of the main problems during peak periods in the winter and summer. It also will add six more indoor check-in booths, allowing passengers to get to their flights faster and, hopefully, alleviating some of the stress of airplane travel. 

During Friday’s meeting, Booth foretold of another carrier change that could occur before the end of the year. Trans States Airlines announced this week it will cease operations by the end of 2020. Its CEO, Rick Leach, pointed to a shortage of pilots and thin profit margins as top reasons for the shutdown.

For now, the future of Trans States, which is scheduled to be the only carrier offering flights to and from Hayden in the fall, from August through November, remains unclear, according to Booth.

“I’m not overly concerned, but it’s interesting,” he said.

Booth predicts the airline’s parent company, Trans States Holding, likely will transition operations to another subsidiary, GoJet Airlines, which has operated out of Hayden in the past. The same goes for the aircraft from Trans States Airlines.

“The planes will not get mothballed. They will likely just moved to another regional carrier,” Booth said.

The airport’s spring and summer flight schedule, which runs from April 13 through Nov. 25, is now available. It offers two daily flights between Denver each day in the spring, from April to June. From June 4 through Aug. 17, service increases to three daily flights between Denver before returning to two flights starting Aug. 18.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.


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