Eagle Co. to pay airline tab? | VailDaily.com

Eagle Co. to pay airline tab?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” Turbulence in the airline industry is hitting the Vail Valley, and the county and the community may have to pitch in to keep Northwest Airlines coming to Eagle County Regional Airport this winter.

Northwest, which is looking at renewing its seasonal contract with the airport, is asking for higher revenue guarantees, said Kent Myers, president and managing partner of the Eagle Air Alliance.

Vail Resorts and Eagle Air Alliance, a local committee of businesses, nonprofits and governments, have historically made deals with the carriers that guarantee the airlines will bring in a certain number of passengers each season. If the airlines do not meet that minimum number, or revenue guarantee, the Alliance and Vail Resorts contribute an agreed amount to minimize losses.

Now, with rising gas prices and financial trouble in the airline industry, the price of the guarantees are rising, too. Vail Resorts and the Air Alliance are asking Eagle County to partner in paying some of that guarantee to Northwest Airlines.

The airline is asking for a $450,000 guarantee. Under the proposed agreement, Vail Resorts would kick in the first $250,000, and the Air Alliance and Eagle County each pitch in up to $100,000 each after that.

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Myers said he could not disclose how much of a guarantee Vail Resorts had been agreeing to in past years, but said that what the airline is asking for the winter is significantly more.

If Northwest stops flying into Eagle, the airport for could lose some of its non-stop flights, such as to Minneapolis, Myers said.

Some carriers, such as United, have already cut their flights to Denver, and in the next 60 to 90 days, some major airlines are expected to merge or go under, he said.

“This is a good move because it’s a good Band-Aid to get us through the winter,” Myers said.

Commissioners expressed initial hesitation at the deal, suggesting that if they agreed to the deal, that Vail Resorts should be willing to pitch in to county programs, also. They will discuss the proposal next week.

County Manager Bruce Baumgartner told commissioners that although contributing to the guarantee is something the county has never done, it is a smart move.

“It’s about not losing a major player, and keeping the level of service,” he said.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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