Eagle lands second summer flight | VailDaily.com

Eagle lands second summer flight

Scott N. Miller
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The eyes of even more Texans will be upon Eagle County this summer.

Spurred by the success of last summer’s American Airlines flight from Dallas, a consortium of local governments and business owners has agreed to put up as much as $250,000 to bring a daily Continental Airlines flight from Houston to the Eagle County Regional Airport.

The second flight will be brought in without any direct financial help from Eagle County, although the county will help with marketing.

County Administrator Jack Ingstad said the county will focus its dollars on the American flight. Last year, the county pledged to pick up the first $150,000 of the $475,000 flight guarantee required to bring summer service to the valley. The success of that single daily flight exceeded expectations, and American only requested about $20,000 to cover revenue shortfalls from the flight.

In a Tuesday presentation to the Vail Town Council, local airline consultant Kent Myers said the county assuming full responsibility for the American flight means money pledged to the program by businesses and valley towns could support another flight. After negotiations with both United Airlines and Continental, the flight from Houston was viewed as the most cost-effective. Myers said United had asked for a guarantee of more than $600,000 to bring a summer flight to Eagle, as opposed to the $250,000 guarantee requested by Continental.

However, instead of pledges to be paid if needed, Continental is asking for a funded escrow account. That means businesses and towns have to write checks. Myers asked Vail officials to write a check to cover a $10,000 pledge previously made to ensure summer service from American.

“I have to warn you, you could lose your money,” said Myers. However, he added, any money that doesn’t go to pay revenue guarantees will be refunded.

Myers said many of the valley’s second-home owners live in Texas, and Colorado remains a popular destination. Asked if the potential flights from Houston could affect flights from Dallas – the cities are about 250 miles apart – Myers said, “I don’t think so. I think we’re actually taking flights away from Denver.”

Tony O’Rourke of the Beaver Creek Resort Company – which has contributed $50,000 to the summer flight effort – said there has been some concern about bringing in a second flight from Texas. And, he said, estimates indicate the flight from Houston could take perhaps 10 percent from the American flight.

But Houston and Dallas represent very different hub markets in terms of where connecting flights come from, O’Rourke said.

And, he said, in an era when many areas are losing air service, adding any flights at all is a plus. “Almost 50 percent of the people who flew in last summer were second-home owners. We hope to have a similar impact with this flight,” O’Rourke said.

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