New direct Atlanta, Chicago flights expand Eagle County airport’s reputation
Brought to you by Eagle County Regional Airport
While wintertime air travel in and out of the Eagle County Regional Airport has become an absolute must-do for travelers both locally and across the nation, summer has usually been a little slower, by comparison.
That will all change this June as the EGE airport is adding two new direct flights to Atlanta and Chicago, doubling the summertime direct-flight options. David Reid, director of aviation for the local airport, said it’s a positive development for the community – and if flight volumes remain steady, it could lead to more year-round options for flyers.
The Atlanta route, Reid said, is an even bigger opportunity as it’s the first Delta summer service operated for the Eagle County airport.
Daily nonstop flights from Eagle County Regional Airport to Chicago O’Hare on American Airlines begin June 3. Daily direct flights to Atlanta on Delta Air Lines will begin June 5. To see a complete schedule of flights available, visit http://www.flyvail.com
“Starting on June 5th, we’ll have direct flights to Atlanta five times a week, moving to daily flights through Labor Day, using a Boeing 757 aircraft,” he explained. “The schedule will see late evening arrivals at 7:30 p.m., then the plane will stay overnight for 7:30 a.m. departures – which will be a great time for connections in Atlanta.”
Atlanta remains the world’s busiest airport, and has become an important hub for international flights – especially as COVID restrictions loosen and European travel will be an option for Americans once again this summer. Reid said the Delta business is a very big development for the airport.
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On June 3, the airport will also add new direct American Airlines flights to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, another major hub for connections to destinations across the world. Reid said those flights will use an Airbus 319 aircraft and will be scheduled daily through Labor Day.
“As long as they both do well in terms of volume, they will remain as daily departures here, through the Labor Day Weekend,” he added. “That’s subject to change and based on volume, but it’s good news.”
The new flights supplement EGE’s existing direct flight schedule, which includes three daily departures to Dallas-Fort Worth on American Airlines, as well as three daily flights to Denver International Airport on United.
With eight flights a day, Reid said summer will be a little more like EGE’s busy winter days, but everything is currently in place to handle the additional volume. It will also serve as a test case to see if the airport can shift into a new and expanded regional role.
“We still remain busy in the summer, with a full complement of air traffic control and firefighters, so this will see a slight uptick in that sense,” he said. “But we still have all the systems and personnel in place. We’re really only a seasonal market right now, so the biggest impact will be the opportunity for us to grow into a real year-round airport, and that’s very exciting.”
Unlike other national airports, which saw as much as a 60% drop in traffic during the height of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Reid said Eagle’s traffic was only off by 23%, and expectations are that volumes will only increase with the new flight options.
“American and Delta both realize our market is strong and that people want to come up to the valley, and that these types of destinations rebounded faster and earlier than other markets,” he said. “We did a lot of work with air service recruitment and retention, and have been meeting constantly to build those relationships.”
Reid said that his anecdotal knowledge of pricing suggests that the new flights will be quite reasonable, comparable to DIA departures. And in an effort to help promote the new direct flights, the Eagle County Airport and the EGE Air Alliance have teamed up to create the Locals Flight Rebate Program (http://www.flyeaglecounty.com). Eagle County residents will be eligible to receive a $100 rebate on flights from the airport between June 3 and Sept. 5 of this year. It’s a first-come, first-serve program, but it’s good for as many as two rebates per person during the duration of the promotion.
Ultimately, Reid said he believes that the new connections will help the Eagle County airport’s reputation expand, as well as continuing to show the value of more local flight options.
“If these flights succeed, we can continue to build that year-round presence. We have lots of local people who travel year-round but are driving to Denver or Grand Junction – this gets lots of vehicles off of I-70,” he said.