Wide-body jets to begin arriving daily in June
American Airlines has agreed to provide a daily wide-body service between Dallas and the Eagle County Regional Airport June 15 through Sept. 3.
“We should look at this as an investment in the local economy for the long run,” said Eagle County Administrator Jack Ingstad. “Expanding the summer flights program is critical to the county’s economic development. The more convenient it is to fly here, the more attractive it is for people to come, especially from the Texas market.”
Until now, the only available flights to Eagle County in the summer had been a United Express shuttle service to Denver.
“The new Dallas summer flight is the most important step the
Vail Valley can take to begin building our summer tourism,” said Martin
White, senior vice president of marketing and sales with Vail Resorts.
American Airlines’ Dallas-Fort Worth hub will connect travelers from Eagle County with 28 cities in the United States, including, Boston, New York, Orlando, Miami, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta, as well as Zurich, Switz.
“We believe there’s enough summer activity in the Vail area to make this a profitable flight,” said John Hotard, spokesman with American Airlines.
The deal includes $475,000 in guarantees requested by American Airlines. Initially, the airline requested $600,000, said Kent Myers of Airplanners LLC, who develops air service to small towns and resorts. He was hired by Eagle County to develop the program, known as Fly Vail Summer.
“The county has been instrumental in organizing this program,” Myers said. “(Commissioner) Arn Menconi played a major role in the process by contacting a lot of people and helping to raise the money.”
In less than three months, Myers raised the money from businesses, nonprofits and local governments, including:
– Eagle County
– East-West Partners
– The Vail Valley Jet Center
– Vail Resorts
– The towns of Avon, Gypsum and Vail
– Beaver Creek Resort Company
– Slifer, Smith and Frampton Real Estate
– Dollar Rent A Car
“We saw it as an opportunity for the airport and area businesses,” Michael Gallagher, chairman of the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, said in a press release. “Obviously, we’re pleased to land the new flights. But we’ve gotten a bonus in the community energy that has grown around this effort.”
Ticket prices will be competitive, said Myers.
Last summer, airfare between Eagle County Regional Airport and Dallas was $970, he added. This summer, the same fare now will cost between $270 and $340.
“Rates, however, could change upon demand. We’re also working with American to provide competitive pricing for the connections,” he said.
Although the program will start with 170 seats a day, Myers said the goal is to be at 500 seats a day in two to three years. In the winter, the airport gets about 2,200 seats a day, guaranteed.
“This is a starting point where we can bring the service and expand it in years to come,” Ingstad said. “It also gives the community a secure position for air service. In the uncertainty of the United Airlines issue, it is important to identify other services and hubs other than Denver.”
United Airlines filed for bankruptcy in December and later petitioned in court to terminate leases with dozens of airports, including Eagle County Regional Airport. Although the United Express service will be continued by Air Wisconsin, the future of the flights still is uncertain, Ingstad said.
“American has been a great partner to work with on our winter flights,
and I am sure they will bring a great deal to the summer program,” said White.
Brad Ghent, owner of Dollar Rent A Car in Eagle, said he is supporting Fly
Vail Summer because he anticipates a “measurable increase” in
business from the new flights.
“Second-home owners and business people are a good part of our customer base,” Ghent said. “And Dallas-Fort Worth is one of our strongest areas of the county. We know our 800 number is hit hard by folks from Florida, who fly through Texas, and by Texans. Now they have a more convenient summer connection.”
In the works, too, is a travel bank program that will allow locals, second-home owners and businesses make a dollar pledge to purchase airline tickets in advance. The program is aimed at securing air service and competitive fares to small airports, Myers said.
“Fly Vail Summer is one project that shows how great everybody can work together,” Menconi said. “We had hotels, resort companies and government all focused in making this program happen quickly so that we can start marketing it in the winter and be ready for the summer.”
Avon puts $10K toward summer flights
Convenience for locals apparently is a big reason the Avon Town Council is giving $10,000 to help secure summertime flights between Dallas and Eagle County.
“I think it’s a necessary connection for locals,” says Avon Mayor Buz Reynolds says. “You drive to Denver, you park, you drive back –you add so much to a ticket.”
But more tourists coming in during summer is also a big plus, adds Councilman Brian Sipes.
“We’re bringing people to the community; we’re importing potential dollars to our community,” Sipes says.
Councilwoman Debbie Buckley said second-home owners flying in may not boost the economy because those folks are coming to town anyway.
“How does this bring more revenue?” she asks.
Sipes says the valley may not see a big economic boost until planes have been flying into the valley for a few years.
“We may not see any economic stimulus the first year, but the second-home owners are the seed,” Sipes says. “For this thing to work, we need to keep growing for three or four years. Then the benefits start coming back.”
The only Avon Town Council member not supporting the $10,000 donation is Pete Buckley. Highlighting the tight economic choices towns throughout the valley are facing, he says Avon should worry first about its own employees, who, because of budget cuts, aren’t scheduled to get wage increases this year.
“We still have people working for this town who aren’t getting raises,” Pete Buckley says. “I can’t in clear conscience give away $10,000.”
– Daily summer nonstop flights from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to the Eagle County Regional Airport will run from June 15 through Sept. 3.
– The cost of a round-trip ticket, booked 14 days in advance with a two-day minimum stay, will be about $270.
– Boeing 757s will carry 176 passengers inbound and 160 outbound (less passengers going out because of the altitude and the temperature on take off).
– The flights will connect with 28 cities in the United States, as well as Zurich, Switz.
Beginning Monday travelers can book the following flights through the airline’s reservation systems or a travel agent:
– American Airlines flight #2205, 6/15 – 9/02 , B757, daily, departing DFW 4 p.m., arriving EGE 5:15 p.m.
– American Airlines flight #2306, effective 6/16 – 9/3, B757, daily, departing EGE 8:30 a.m., arriving DFW 11:35 a.m.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at email@example.com.