Despite war worries, airport traffic holds steady |

Despite war worries, airport traffic holds steady

Air traffic into the Eagle County Regional Airport was almost dead even in 2003, despite an overall economic downturn.

In 2002 county statistics show 581 fewer travelers flew into and out of the facility. In 2003 170,601 travelers were tallied. That’s a 0.4 percent decrease from 2002’s 171,182.

The statistics are significant because they show the importance of the additional summer air service from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Eagle that kicked off in June and new winter service hat was initiated this season by US Airways this ski season. Nearly 12,000 people used the summer flights, and an additional 15,785 used US Airways this year. Last Year US Airways had 348 passengers.

But the increased service from those two flights was was offset by two factors: three other airlines cut the number of flights to Eagle County and the war with Iraq pared the number of air travelers in the traditionally busy end of the ski season in March and April.

County statistics show only 54,384 passengers flew in March and April of 2003 compared to 62,955 the previous year” 8,571 fewer “a 14 percent decrease.

County Administrator Jack Ingstad said the numbers show the state of the airline industry in general.

“It just shows it wasn’t a stellar year for the airlines,” he said. “It actually was a pretty good year for the county airlines.”

Despite the reduced number of travelers the county’s airport operation is doing well, Ingstad said. The county was able to make an advance $210,000 payment in 2003 on the $20 million in bonds floated to build and improve the airport, Ingstad said by charging more to the airlines.

But more people seem to be taking to the air this ski season. December’s total, compared to December 2003, was up 8.7 percent, with 18,895 people this year compared to 17,372 last. That jives with early reservation information showing advance bookings were up 7 or more percent. That’s better than the national trend which shows the number of air travelers through the Christmas holiday period ” 8.3 million ” was up 2 percent compared to the previous season according to statics compiled by American Automobile Association.

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