Summer flights called a success
Local businesses who pledged money to the summer flight program will not have to come up with the dollars, Kent Myers, the local organizer of the program, said Wednesday.
Eagle County, which had guaranteed the first $150,000 of the $475,000 that American Airlines requested to fly planes this summer from Dallas-Fort Worth, might also break even, Myers said.
“If we break even on this program in its first year, it’s incredible,” Myers said. “The worst scenario for the county is that it might have to pay from $10,000 to $15,000.”
The guarantee money ensured American Airlines that if the program didn’t succeed, the losses would be shared. From June 14 through Labor Day, American Airlines offered a daily summer flight on a Boeing 757 between Dallas and Eagle County Regional Airport.
Myers said he expects to know today if the county owes the airline any money. American Airlines officials in Dallas should finish a review of the program’s numbers for September.
Myers said he based his estimates on the amount of passengers for the season; about 80 percent of the seats – about 21,000 of 26,000 seats – were sold, he said.
“You always price (tickets) with the mind that you’re not going to fill 100 percent,” he said. “You always target 70 to 80 percent load factor to price.”
Myers, who has worked on more than 30 seasonal programs in different airports across the country, said none of those programs broke even the first year.
“This is very unusual, this is unique,” he said. “I attribute the success to the financial support of the county, the marketing from the community, the cooperation with American Airlines and our ability to manage the fares. There’s a lot of players in this.”
Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi calls the apparent success of the summer flights a “home run for the community.”
“We started this project in hopes that it would start paying for itself in three years,” Menconi said. “This was without question the best community effort valleywide in working with an economic development project.”
Businesses that pledged money to the summer flights included East-West Partners; the Vail Valley Jet Center; Vail Resorts; the towns of Gypsum, Avon and Vail; Beaver Creek Resort Company; Beaver Creek Resort merchants; Cordillera; Sonnenalp Resort of Vail; Slifer, Smith and Frampton; and Dollar Rent-A-Car.
“I’m pleased it has worked out as well as it did,” said Commissioner Tom Stone. “This was a good opportunity to spur economic development at a time when we need to encourage more visitors to our county.
“This program benefits the county in more ways than sales tax receipts,” he added. “It’s a way of supporting the community. I’m sure we more than offset the money we spent on the program.”
Almost 40 percent of passengers came from Dallas, Myers said.
This summer, American Airlines’ Dallas-Fort Worth hub connected travelers from Eagle County to 28 cities in the United States, including, Boston, New York, Orlando, Miami, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta, as well as international destinations, such as Zurich.
“It’s very good that the majority of the passengers came from Dallas because we get a larger part of the revenue on those tickets,” Myers said.
Myers said he already has already discussed with community members the possibility of expanding the length of the season, adding another hub and another airline.
“We want more seats, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “You don’t want to put too many seats on the market. We don’t know how much demand there is out there.
“This year’s program, however, created an economic impact,” he added, “and that’s what the strategy is about.”
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.