Shuttle service to Denver secured | VailDaily.com

Shuttle service to Denver secured

Veronica Whitney

Now, tickets for the year-round flight service can be purchased through December, as Air Wisconsin has signed a one-year agreement to operate at the airport.

“The good news is that we worked out a deal to keep them operating in the terminal,” said Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad.

Air Wisconsin partners with United Airlines to operate the United Express flights, the only year-round daily service between Denver International Airport and Eagle County. Air Wisconsin operates nine daily flights to and from Denver in winter; the service continues in the spring and summer with three daily flights.

Continuity of the service became uncertain after United Airlines filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 9 and then cancelled what remained of a 10-year contract with the Eagle County Air Terminal Corporation, which runs the airport and pays for the bonds issued to build the new terminal two years ago.

“We’re confident we will continue service throughout the end of the year,” said Christine Mangi, spokeswoman for Air Wisconsin. “But it’s too early to know what our schedule will be after the ski season. We are optimistic that we will continue to service the airport year-round.”

Air Wisconsin, however, didn’t take over United Airline’s contract with the corporation, which was terminated on Dec. 31 under a bankruptcy court order, Ingstad said.

“The county didn’t make any concessions. We treated them (Air Wisconsin) like we treat the other airlines,” Ingstad said.

On Jan. 15, Air Wisconsin paid the Eagle County Air Terminal Corporation $150,000 for three months’ rent at the airport. The total lease for a year could add up to $600,000 – 25 percent more than what United Airlines was paying, Ingstad said.

“United was under a long-term agreement,” Ingstad said. “Airlines under long agreements pay less, but we have a guarantee that they’ll be flying into the airport for several years.”

In 2001, United signed the 10-year lease agreement with a number of guarantees on the $15 million bond taken to pay for the airport’s expansion. The airport partially relies on that contract as one of the guarantees for the bonds.

The guarantees could be needed if the airport loses revenue from the other airlines, which are under one-year contracts, Ingstad said.

“We’ll begin re-negotiating agreements with Northwest, Delta and Continental, which are under short-term contracts, in May. We’re always receptive to long-term agreements,” he added.

Although United was allowed to end the contract with the county airport, it was ordered to pay fees for passenger facility charges, which the airline collects when it sells a ticket.

Earlier this month, the Eagle County Air Terminal Corporation received a check from United for $15,000 to cover those charges.

“There’s still a question if Air Wisconsin will continue the service next year,” ingstad said. “This agreement has previsions that allow other airlines to take over the service in the event that United Airlines decides that Air Wisconsin will not continue the service.”

United Airlines is currently undergoing bankruptcy reorganization. The airline made the largest bankruptcy filing in aviation history, saying it was the only way to keep the world’s No. 2 airline flying after two years of heavy losses.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.




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