Vail Valley summer flights shaping up for a good season
Vail, CO, Colorado
After a summer of silence, the Vail Valley’s Eagle County Regional Airport is starting to get back its warm-weather hum.
While the airport’s summer business has always lagged behind the winter crowds – and still requires more than $200,000 in revenue guarantees from a local air alliance – the early reservation numbers are encouraging. And those numbers aren’t just encouraging in a “better than last year” way.
“We could be looking at a better season than 2007,” Eagle County Airport Terminal Manager Chris Anderson said.
Remember, it’s still June, but the summer seats are nearly half-booked on a new once-a-week American Airlines flight from Miami. That’s something of a surprise, Anderson said, since there hasn’t really been much in the way of marketing to go along with the new flight.
“We really didn’t know what to expect,” said Beaver Creek Resort Company President Tony O’Rourke, who’s also a board member of the Eagle County Air Alliance. “But people seem to be willing to get out of the summer environment there. This flight could be great for us.”
While the Miami flight shows promise, the current reservations still represent a relatively small number of tourists – about 1,000 so far. Still, that’s for a weekly flight. And O’Rourke said if that flight is a success, it could lead to more flights next summer.
The daily American Airlines flight from Dallas, though, is pretty well-established, and about 7,200 people have already booked their seats.
Then there’s United Airlines’ daily flights from Denver. Those flights are almost always the last leg of a trip from somewhere else, summer and winter. About 10,000 seats have been booked on those flights so far this summer.
And that’s not bad, considering it’s still more than two months until Labor Day, and summer travelers tend to book their rooms and flights closer to their travel dates. That’s why Anderson believes this summer’s passenger numbers could set a new record.
“We’re tracking ahead of ’06, ’07 and ’08,” Anderson said. “This could be our best summer yet.”
Part of that optimism is also due to a decision the air alliance made to pay for seat guarantees on flights from Dallas through the end of September instead of just after Labor Day.
“That’s been a good decision so far,” O’Rourke said. Adding to that is the fact that group business, which took a nose-dive in 2009, seems to be coming back, if slowly. O’Rourke said big financial companies don’t want to be seen holding events in Vail or Beaver Creek, even if the spring, summer and fall are great times to book rooms.
“I think we’re gradually turning a corner,” O’Rourke said. “We’re seeing some positive signs.”
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.