United wins Chicago flights from American
EAGLE COUNTY – Better customer service at a better price prompted local merchants to sign a contract for a direct Chicago summer flight this week with United Airlines, instead of American Airlines, as expected.Local merchants and airport officials were negotiating an agreement with American Airlines to fly a nonstop Chicago flight. But United Airlines came forward with a more attractive deal, said Kent Myers, a consultant who helped negotiate the agreement. “It was better service,” he said. Both airlines promised nonstop flights from Chicago, but the planes United Airlines will fly a can hold more passengers and more luggage. An American Airlines flight would have required fewer passengers and pieces of luggage to preserve enough fuel for a direct flight, Myers said. United will fly a 124-passenger aircraft Sunday through Thursday, and a larger, 183-passenger aircraft on Fridays and Saturdays, Myers said. The United flight also will be able to connect passengers with cities as far away as Frankfurt and Hong Kong with just a stop in Chicago, said Frank Johnson, president of the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau.
United also will bring direct flights from Denver this summer.American Airlines will continue to fly a daily, nonstop flight from Dallas, just as it has in previous summers, Johnson said. The summer flight season begins June 6 and runs through Sept. 5.The costThis summer will be the third year of the Fly Summer Vail marketing program. Recruiting those flights have required profit guarantees. Last summer, Eagle County put up $450,000 to guarantee the summer flights.
This summer, several local business have pitched in to share the cost. A coalition of those merchants, led by Johnson with assistance from Myers, negotiated the contracts with the airlines this summer, as well.Local merchants and other local governments have pitched in $550,000 to guarantee the flights this summer. Eagle County has put aside $200,000 this year for gurantees and an additional $45,000 for marketing.United asked for a lower guarantee for the Chicago flight than American did, Johnson said. Potential for successCounty commissioners were concerned early on that adding new service would take away business from existing flights.
While passenger service and revenue rose last summer, the American Airlines direct flight from Dallas suffered somewhat with the addition of the United Airlines direct flight from Denver. Some travelers chose to connect through Denver instead.Nevertheless, there is reason for optimism. The Chicago area is Eagle County’s third largest tourism market in the summer, Johnson said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado