Yampa Valley Regional Airport surpasses 200,000 passengers December through February

Heightened number of travelers has left airport working hard to address increases in demand, director says

A United Airlines jet takes off from Yampa Valley Regional Airport in February. From December to February, the airport saw more than 200,000 passengers, according to airport officials.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Approaching the end of the winter flight season, the Yampa Valley Regional Airport is again reporting record traffic.

With 200,241 passengers using the hub outside Hayden from December through February, the airport smashed the previous high of 154,960 passengers over the same months, set in 2007, marking a 29% increase over the previous record.

Airport director Kevin Booth had reported record-breaking traffic in mid-January, only to see that very record broken each week for the next several weeks.

“We knew we had more seats, if you will — more airplanes and bigger airplanes this season — but what we didn’t know, and what was a pleasant surprise, is those airplanes came in pretty full,” Booth said on Friday, March 25.

With nonstop flights to 16 airports in 14 cities, the airport hosts flights over the winter for six major airlines including — in order of the number of passengers they carried this season — United, Southwest, American, Delta, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines.

Outside the winter flight season — between April and mid-December — the airport hosts daily flights from United and Southwest Airlines to Denver. This is only the second season Southwest has offered flights into the Yampa Valley.

But the increased numbers have also meant challenges for the airport and its workers.

Like many local employers, Booth said, the airport has faced severe staffing shortfalls at the same time that higher passenger counts have further burdened the demand for services.

According to Booth, food and janitorial services as well as most particularly ground transportation were all hard hit by staffing shortfalls this winter. Efforts to work around the crunch had to be initiated in-season and will continue post-season.

The food services department, for example, has been down about 10 positions throughout the winter. The janitorial department was missing about three or four, Booth said.

According to Booth, this meant the airport had to simplify menu options, carefully manage employee hours and reduce some operating hours, though the airport’s food services remained open for peak hours and into the nights when there were passengers.

“We still did all that (with peak times and nighttime food services), but we had a lot of people who worked long hours because we don’t have the staff,” Booth said.

Because the Yampa Valley Regional Airport does not have a robust taxi service, Booth also said ground transportation was incredibly challenging this winter. Airport officials had to work closely with other ground-service providers to try to meet the rising need for rides to and from Steamboat Springs.

“The double-edge sword is that it’s great people are coming, but the challenge was that the shuttle buses couldn’t keep up with demand,” Booth said, adding that the airport had to put a number of creative plans into action to try to meet that demand.

In reporting the record numbers, county officials referenced a recent hiccup at the airport in which an estimated 100 passengers on a Delta flight were delayed for three days. A handful of travelers were upset enough to voice their dismay in an article previously published in the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

However, showing another side of the situation, Booth said that more than 20 of the passengers who experienced the delay wrote the airport handwritten notes of thanks and praised the workers’ efforts.

“I’m extremely proud of the YVRA staff and all of the airport tenant staffs,” Booth said. “They performed exceptionally well in the face of these challenges.”

Airport projects

A United Airlines jet takes off from Yampa Valley Regional Airport Friday afternoon. | John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Yampa Valley Regional Airport is undergoing a number of projects from April to November, according to the airport.

• An aircraft-de-ice project that will double de-icing capacity and speed commercial aircraft turn times;

• A terminal area plan to outline detailed plans for terminal expansion and optimized terminal area operations;

• A general aviation development plan to facilitate airport development in support of increased general aviation demand for hangars;

• Construction of a new employee parking lot to expand capacity for passenger long-term parking;

• Construction of rental car carwash and overflow parking lots to improve rental car turn times and availability.

Source: Yampa Valley Regional Airport

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