Vail Valley Jet Center having a happy holiday season |

Vail Valley Jet Center having a happy holiday season

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

A tough year is ending well at the Vail Valley Jet Center.

“We’re running neck-and-neck with last Christmas, and that’s great,” Jet Center General Manager Paul Gordon said.

Shortly after last Christmas, the Jet Center’s business – centered around those who fly into and out of the Eagle County Regional Airport in private jets – took a serious hit. The world financial crisis played a role, of course. So did public backlash against executives using company jets for pretty much anything besides sales calls.

The toughest blow came during the six months the airport’s main runway was closed to finish a runway-extension project. The airport was still open to virtually anything but commercial planes, but what summer visitors there were still landed elsewhere.

The result, Gordon said, was a drop in business that ranged from 20 percent to nearly 45 percent.

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That made the holiday bounce a very pleasant surprise, Gordon said.

Traffic on the private aviation side is limited from Dec. 18 through Jan. 4 with what’s called a “slot system.” Any private plane flying to Eagle County between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. those days must request a landing time three days in advance. Gordon said there have been some days when all the daytime slots were full.

On the commercial side, airport manager Ovid Siefers said planes have been flying in and out with only one weather-caused glitch Dec. 22.

The big jets have been full, too, and have been carrying more passengers and fuel than they could before the runway extension was finished.

Siefers said the longer runway gives planes more tarmac to use to build up and shave off speed. That means commercial planes flying from New York, Miami and other far-flung airports can carry 10 or 15 more passengers than they could using the shorter runway.

Both Siefers and Gordon said airport operations have been made easier by more than a week of excellent flying weather.

“The timing of the storms hasn’t interfered with travel at all,” Gordon said.

Still, both acknowledged we could use more snow.

“If the storms came at night, and never on a Saturday, that would be perfect,” Siefers said.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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