Eagle County airport bouncing back from the recession | VailDaily.com

Eagle County airport bouncing back from the recession

A flight departs from Eagle County Regional Airport and flies over Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum on Tuesday. County officials are discussing the possibility of adding non-stop service to Washington D.C., Charlotte N.C., and Las Vegas.
Anthony Thornton | athornton@vaildaily.com |

EGE by the numbers

The Eagle County Regional Airport has direct commercial air service to 11 cities that carry 12,695 seats per month.

New target markets include year-round service to Chicago and winter service to Charlotte, N.C., Las Vegas, Boston, Austin, Fort Lauderdale, St. Louis, Kansas City, Baltimore, Oakland and Washington’s Dulles airport.

Delta had 7 percent more passengers than nonstop seats in January-March 2013, indicating a need for additional capacity.

All other markets had enough capacity to serve passenger demand.

Load factors are how full the airplanes are. Minneapolis/St. Paul has the fullest planes ay 82.7 percent. Los Angeles is the emptiest at 43 percent full.

All metro areas (combinations of airports in same city) have enough capacity to serve passenger demand.

Eagle County hit its peak in the first fiscal quarter of 2008 with 472,880 passengers. Currently, it’s 325,874. That’s down 9 percent year over year and 31 percent from the peak.

Current average one-way fare is $285, up $6 or 2 percent over last year, and $71 or 33 percent over the last four years.

Denver’s average one-way fare is $172.

Aspen’s average one-way fare is $310, up 18 percent from the year before.

Revenue is down from $105.5 million at its March 2008 peak, to $92.8 million.

The total number of seats flying into the airport dropped 15 percent this year. However, the planes were fuller. Total passenger numbers dropped 8.8 percent, a 4 percent load factor decrease.

Aspen airport’s total seat numbers fell 18 percent and its passenger numbers were down 7 percent, a 10 percent load factor decrease.

More people flew to the Washington, D.C., area from the local airport than any other direct destination, 4,918. Boston was a distant second at 3,800.

The average EGE passenger’s average household income was $94,169. Aspen’s was $100,093.

Passenger numbers are based on passengers who began and ended their trips at the local airport.

Source: Campbell-Hill Aviation Group

EGE’s local economic impact

6,294: Direct and indirect jobs the airport creates

$212,7511,273: Annual salaries those jobs pay

$635,901,268: Annual direct and indirect economic output

The Eagle County Regional Airport is funded through landing fees paid by airlines. So far, it has cost Eagle County taxpayers practically nothing.

Across Colorado

265,700: jobs generated statewide

$12.6 billion: Annual payroll

$36.7 billion: Total economic output

Source: Colorado Department of Transportation 2013 Division of Aeronautics study

For information go to http://www.colorado-aeronautics.org.

EAGLE COUNTY — This winter’s commercial air schedule saw a slight drop in available seats, but more of those seats had passengers in them.

County officials took a hard look at commercial airline passenger data Tuesday, with an eye toward adding nonstop flights to several new cities.

“We want to make data-driven decisions about what carriers and routes we target,” said Greg Phillips, director of the Eagle County Regional Airport. “There are opportunities here during the peak periods. It gives us more information to convince airlines to look at this more closely.”

Based on data, Washington Dulles could be a huge market for United, Schorr said.

Delta expanded its service from Minneapolis/St. Paul, but still had 7 percent more demand than available seats, said Kevin Schorr, of Campbell-Hill Aviation Group, the consulting firm that crunched the data.

A summer flight to Chicago would create opportunities to fly to many other places in the world, and Charlotte, N.C., provides access up and down the East Coast. From Charlotte, passengers would have access to 21 more markets than they would from Philadelphia.

Eagle has a 10 percent higher population and 62 percent higher household income than Montrose, and Allegiant already flies to Las Vegas from there, Schorr said.

Airport taking off again

The Eagle County airport is already Colorado’s third busiest during the ski season. About half of all destination skiers arrive through the local airport.

Airport passenger numbers peaked in March 2008, just before the economy tanked, and was off 31 percent this past year from that 2008 peak.

It’s bouncing back, Phillips said. It helps that local governments and businesses are helping grubstake air travel.

“These are tough times for small regional airports. Airlines have taken a position to reduce capacity wherever they can,” Phillips said. “For an airport like ours, the airlines want to see that we have a stake in it ourselves.”

They’re trying to create revenue guarantees for additional routes, to give airlines some time to make routes successful, Schorr said.

“Airlines can lose so much money so fast; they can lose their shirt if a route is not successful,” Phillips said. “The revenue guarantees are out there as collateral. Having some money available for subsidizing new routes would be a huge help.”

Technology helps

Thanks to more efficient aircraft such as the Airbus 319, legacy carriers including Delta, United and American are more flexible and can provide service a couple days a week. Their dilemma is where they put that aircraft the rest of the time.

“There are 200-plus communities vying for that service,” Phillips said.

They’re also trying to make the airport more attractive to locals, Phillips said.

Business travelers are more time sensitive and less price sensitive. Leisure travelers are more price sensitive and less time sensitive, Phillips said.

“If you’re traveling with three kids and there’s a $50 difference in price, you’ll probably hop in the car and travel to Denver. We’ll always struggle with that,” Phillips said.

20-year plan

Airport officials are looking 20 years into the future with a master plan that evaluates the anticipated growth.

The draft is available online at http://www.eaglecounty.us/EGEMasterPlan under “Project Documents.”

The plan is important when airport officials go looking for federal money for those projects, Phillips said. For example, 95 percent of the $595,000 it cost to create the 20-year plan came from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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