Frontier CEO bullish on Aspen |

Frontier CEO bullish on Aspen

Bob Ward
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Aspen Times photoFrontier CEO Sean Menke, right, speaks about trends in the airline industry with aviation consultant Mike Boyd at the St. Regis Aspen on Monday.

ASPEN, Colorado ” The CEO of Frontier Airlines said Monday he “couldn’t be happier” about the performance of his company’s flights between Denver and Aspen.

Sean Menke spoke with aviation consultant Mike Boyd before an audience from the airline and resort business industries at the St. Regis Aspen. The airline launched its new flights last spring. Though his public talk at Boyd’s Aviation Forecast Summit focused on broader industry trends, Menke told reporters afterward that he’s generally pleased with business in Aspen and other Colorado resort markets.

“I couldn’t be happier with our performance in the summer,” he said. “It did surpass my expectations.”

Aspen’s “shoulder-season” slowdowns have not been a surprise for the airline, and the fuel efficiency of the Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft has relieved some of the pressure to load every 74-seat plane with passengers, he said. Still, Frontier is already working with to bring more skiers to Aspen ” travelers can book complete vacation packages, including lodging, lift tickets and other components, using Frontier’s website ” and, though he wouldn’t give details, Menke said the airline is exploring other ways to entice Front Range residents to ski in Aspen.

With regard to the industry in general, amid volatile fuel prices and an economic downturn, Menke said “it’s a very dynamic marketplace.”

For their part, Aspenites are apprehensive about the coming 2008-09 ski season and how many tourists will want to shell out thousands for an expensive ski vacation. Bill Tomcich of the central reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass was enthused to have Menke in town for the airline industry conference, along with many other airline executives, but admitted to some apprehension about the upcoming season.

The main thing on Tomcich’s mind Monday was what airline officials were calling “ancillary revenue” ” the baggage charges that all three Aspen carriers have enacted, and which are bound to hit winter travelers in the pocketbook.

United plans to charge travelers $15 for their first checked bag, $25 for the second and $100 for the third, Tomcich said. Delta charges $50 for the second bag and $125 for the third, Tomcich added, and Frontier will charge $15 for the first, $25 for the second and $100 for the third. The airlines levy the fees on both the outgoing and return trips.

United recently reaffirmed that it will treat passengers’ boots and skis as one bag, as long as the combination weighs less than 50 pounds, Tomcich said, but he has not heard anything similar from Delta or Frontier yet. He fears that baggage charges could, in some cases, double the cost of a flight to Aspen and anger unsuspecting guests.

“We may have a lot of people caught by surprise, and that’s one of my concerns,” he said.

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