New summer flights off to a bumpy start |

New summer flights off to a bumpy start

Tamara Miller

EAGLE COUNTY – Lackluster sales on a direct United Airlines flight from Chicago may end up costing Eagle County some money this year. The airline has sold only 39 percent of seats for June flights from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to the Eagle Count. June flights from Eagle County to Chicago are slightly better, with 48 percent of seats sold. June typically is the slowest of the summer months, but it’s still far below what supporters of the Fly Summer Vail program were hoping for.”The United service has been a challenge for the Fly Summer Vail committee because it has lagged from day one,” said Kent Myers, a consultant who has helped negotiate the airline contracts for the summer flight program. Local merchants successfully convinced the Board of County Commissioners last winter to bring a direct flight from Chicago into the airport this summer. The board also added another direct United flight from Denver, bringing the number of direct, daily flights on large jets coming into the airport this summer to four. The airport already had one direct United flight from Denver and a direct American flight from Dallas. Eagle County, similar to years past, set aside $200,000 to underwrite financial guarantees to lure those flights into the airport. Myers told the commissioners in a meeting Tuesday the county will likely lose some of that money this year. Outside of the meeting, Myers said it may be too early to tell how much. A program elsewhere only had 62 percent of seats sold but the community that underwrote the flight didn’t have to pay. “We would like it to be at 70 percent, but that’s not a magical number,” he said. The American flight from Dallas is doing well, however, Myers said. There are a few reasons for the lackluster performance for United flights so far, he said. Until recently, airfares for flights into Eagle were much higher than those for flights to Denver International Airport, he said. There also were rumors that United Airlines employees might go on strike, which may have affected reservations. And, the arrival time for the United flight has been pushed back from about 9:30 p.m. to about 10:30 p.m., he said. Myers said he was optimistic the rest of the summer would go better. Airfares to Eagle now are competitive with Chicago flights into Denver. Rumors that employees might strike have quieted down.But the scheduling problem didn’t impress Commissioner Tom Stone. “I will be taking that into account when we consider this again next year,” he said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or, Colorado

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