Eagle County airport passengers stranded by systemwide delays, cancellations
GYPSUM — Eagle County airport manager Greg Phillips was in a conundrum Monday.
A winter storm dumped snow on his airport, which is fine. We tend to like it and deal with it all the time.
On the other hand, flight cancellations originating in larger hub airports made life complicated Monday at the local airport.
“I expect it’s going to be a tough day,” Phillips said.
Crews are keeping the Eagle County airport runway open, but it’s systemwide, Phillips said.
Airlines often decide to cancel flights ahead of time.
“We’re seeing a lot more pre-cancellations in the past few years,” Phillips said.
Those decisions ripple through the entire system.
“When a big storm happens you’ll see them cancel flights in the big hub airports. That affects the whole system, all the way out to us,” Phillips said. More often than not, it’s not our weather that does this to us. It’s elsewhere in the system.”
“A lot of our cancellations are because of system and airline decisions,” Phillips said.
“It’s beyond us. A lot of the northwest has been hit,” Phillips said.
Airline flights are filled with humans, of course, all trying to get somewhere.
With airlines packing more people into their planes, flights are generally full.
A cancelled flights strands more than 100 passengers, and when other flights are full it makes it difficult to accommodate extra passengers, Phillips explained.
That problem can be compounded in a small-ish airport like Eagle County’s, that has one flight a day to destinations like New York’s JFK, Miami or Houston.
When a flight is canceled, passengers may have to wait until the next day. In some cases, passengers trying to get to New York’s JFK Monday morning were delayed until Wednesday’s flight.
With snow falling and temperatures hovering around freezing, the freezing/thawing and refreezing creates something pretty darned special.
“If it’s just snow, that’s not a problem. But combine that with low visibility and the freezing and thawing, and that’s a much more complicated issue,” Phillips said.
“It’s great to have all the snow, but this kind of heavy, wet snow does come with its own challenges.”
On the bright side, the snow is good.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.