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Two airlines interested in summer service

Veronica Whitney
Daily file photoJetliners, such as this Boeing 757, could become a regular sight at Eagle County Regional Airport in summer, too. American Airlines and Continental Airlines have expressed an interest in regular summer service, county officials say.
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Kent Myers of Airplanners LLC, hired by Eagle County officials to develop the program, said Monday he has received proposals from American Airlines and Continental Airlines to serve Eagle County Regional Airport this summer.

“I’m very pleased with the proposals,” Myers said.

“It’s looking good. Now, the community can rally behind us.”

Myers has been negotiating in the past months with major airlines to bring nonstop daily flights from Houston, Dallas and Chicago to the Eagle County Regional Airport.

“In the proposals, each of the airlines is offering daily service using two different types of aircraft from Dallas and Houston respectively,” Myers said.

American Airlines would fly daily from Dallas with a Boeing 757, which carries about 176 passengers. Continental Airlines would use a smaller plane, a Boeing 737, to fly about 124 passengers daily from Houston.

The flights, mid-June until Labor Day, would arrive early in the evening and depart before 9 a.m., Myers said.

“There’s still a lot of negotiations to do,” he said. “For example, we need to negotiate what kind of marketing they’ll do for us and if we can lower the seat cap. I don’t think we can afford both airlines because of the cost.”

So far, there’s a $300,000 seat guarantee for the program. The county commissioners already have agreed to advance $150,000 to subsidize the flights.

Myers said the program will need another $500,000 for the Fly Vail Summer marketing campaign.

“We’ll start slow (less than 200 seats), but the market here can demand 500 seats daily in the summer,” Myers said.

In the winter, the airport gets about 2,200 seats a day guaranteed.

Myers will meet with the commissioner today to discuss the details of each proposal, financial arrangements and the community support. He said he’s planning on having all the negotiations with the airlines done by Friday.

“I’m still getting information on the number of connecting cities,” he added.

Additional funding for the program could come from businesses in the valley, including East West Partners, Vail/Beaver Creek Jet Center, Beaver Creek Resort Company, hotels and property management companies, and the towns of Vail and Avon.

Myers also is proposing a “travel bank” program that will allow locals, second- home owners and businesses to make dollar pledges to purchase air tickets in advance. This program is aimed at securing air service and competitive fares to small airports. He said he expects to raise $1 million with the travel bank.

Once the summer flight program is in place, it will cost an additional $75 more to fly to Eagle than to Denver in the summer, Myers said.

“Expanding the summer flights program is critical to the county’s economic development,” Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad said.

Each passenger coming through the airport brings about $1,700 of economic activity to the county, said Dick Gustafson, a former county commissioner, who acts as a consultant on airport issues.

Other changes at the airport will help expand services, too. The airport is on the fast track to get U.S. Customs service and become an international airport – initially for private aviation. Construction of a new air traffic control tower at the airport is set to begin in March.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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