Eagle County airport adds flights for spring, summer | VailDaily.com

Eagle County airport adds flights for spring, summer

American to add spring service from Dallas, and United will add a summer flight from Chicago

While international visits to the U.S. are growing, the Vail Valley may not see much of that boost.
Special to the Daily
On the schedule
  • American Airlines will bring a daily flight from Dallas-Fort Worth from April 7 through June 3, 2020.
  • United Airlines is adding a summer flight from Chicago O’Hare Airport to Eagle County beginning in the summer of 2020.
  • American Airlines earlier this year announced a new winter-season flight from Philadelphia to Eagle County.

EAGLE COUNTY — Mike Brumbaugh has for a decade or so been a board member of the EGE Air Alliance. He’s never been this excited about that group’s work.

Formed several years ago to promote summer air service to the valley, the EGE Air Alliance is a consortium of businesses and local governments. The group in 2013 worked to bring a summer flight from Houston on United Airlines. That service lasted only a few years.

The group has also worked to expand winter service, in both the number of flights and the number of cities served.

But, Brumbaugh said, the past two weeks have been exceptionally productive.

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United Airlines recently announced it would bring a summer flight into Eagle County from Chicago. And in the past few days, the air alliance announced the addition of a daily spring-season flight from Dallas Fort Worth on American Airlines.

Brumbaugh was enthusiastic, to say the least.

“I’m like a little kid on Christmas,” Brumbaugh said. “This is huge.”

Timing is important

The reason for Brumbaugh’s excitement is as much about the timing of the flights as the flights themselves. Both flights will arrive in Eagle County in the evening, then take off fairly early in the morning. In the case of the springtime flight on American, flights arrive at 8:20 p.m. and take off at 8:05 the next morning. That’s outstanding news, he said.

Since Dallas and Chicago are two of the nation’s largest airline hubs, passengers can fly into either city from just about anywhere, and have time to catch a connecting flight to Eagle County.

The reverse is true for passengers flying out of the airport in Gypsum. Leaving fairly early in the morning allows people to catch connecting flights to just about anywhere.

The new flights, as well as a ski-season American flight from Philadelphia announced earlier this year, are the result of strong lobbying by local interests.

Brumbaugh noted that Peter Dann of East West Partners and John Shipp of the Dusty Boot are among those who have joined Eagle County officials to lobby airlines for service.

Brumbaugh said he’s been told by airline representatives that meeting with both community members and government officials has a positive effect on decisions whether or not to add routes.

You might think that the Vail Valley brand would be enough to lure air service. That’s not the case, Brumbaugh said. 

Airlines have a finite number of aircraft, Brumbaugh said, and lots of big and small communities want air service. Airlines go where they believe they can haul the most paying passengers, whether that’s a well-known resort or a community that doesn’t rely on tourism.

That’s why there are revenue guarantees

In some cases, communities lure service with revenue guarantees. If passenger loads don’t generate as much revenue as expected, the community pays.

In the case of the 2013 United summer flight from Houston to Eagle County, local governments and businesses put up $485,000 to guarantee the service.

In the case of the new service, Brumbaugh said American asked for a revenue guarantee for its spring service. But the summer service from Chicago and winter service from Philadelphia are coming without those guarantees.

At Vail’s Sitzmark Lodge, general manager Jeanne Fritch said that hotel has a lot of ski-season guests from the Philadelphia area. For the spring and summer flights, Fritch said the new service could be useful.

While much of Vail’s summer business comes from those who drive into the valley, Fritch noted that guests who fly tend to stay longer. That means they tend to spend more while they’re here.

Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey agreed that the new serice is a big deal.

“We love our guests to have an alternative to Denver,” Wadey said.

In addition to the ability to bring guests, the new flights could make the local airport more convenient for locals.

“If I’m a teacher who lives in Gypsum, I don’t care about a flight for second-home owners,” Brumbaugh said. “But if I want to go see my family in New Hampshire, and I can drive five minutes (instead of driving to Denver) for almost the same price, that’s great.”

While the new service has alliance members and other excited, Brumbaugh said there’s still more work to do.

Brumbaugh said the alliance and county officials are still working to bring back fall service from Dallas on American. That service was introduced, then dropped, a couple of years ago.

And, he added, there have been conversations this week between airline and county officials at a large industry conference in Orlando.

Brumbaugh said county officials and the towns of Vail, Avon and Gypsum deserve a lot of credit for the work to attract new flights.

“They’ve really taken the bull by the horns,” he said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.  


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