Vail Daily column: Myths (and truths) about air service in the Vail Valley
The EGE Air Alliance is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit public-private partnership that provides the funding to make Eagle County Regional Airport a vital part of the Eagle County economy. Formed in 2002, the EGE Air Alliance partnership includes government entities and private business stakeholders throughout local towns across Eagle County.
In 2002, when the EGE Air Alliance began, a small group of business leaders and several local government entities made it possible to sign an agreement with American Airlines to add daily nonstop service from Dallas/Fort Worth in the summer months. That agreement was the EGE Air Alliance’s first success. Fall fights from Dallas were quickly added to our schedule, allowing locals and visitors to have connections through the fall season.
EGE Air Alliance efforts have resulted in additional air service successes. In 2013, Air Canada began a nonstop flight from Toronto to the Eagle Airport. In 2013, nonstop summer flights between Houston, Texas and Eagle Airport began running and continue today. Another EGE Air Alliance success.
However, there are a number of myths in the community regarding the development of our flight program and increasing air service to Eagle County Regional Airport.
Myth No. 1: “Vail and Beaver Creek are the center of the ski resort universe so airlines will make flights available without additional funding from EGE.”
Truth: Airlines have options, other than Eagle County Regional Airport, that may be more profitable to them. They will not add flights or make additional seats available into Eagle County Regional Airport without additional funding.
Myth No. 2: “Airlines want to fly to Eagle Airport and are willing to do so at their own cost.”
Truth: Airlines need to be courted and educated about the opportunities at Eagle Airport. By using visitor data and other demographic airline data, some deals with airlines can take years to put together.
Myth No. 3: “Denver/DIA is the airport we use when we fly, not the Eagle Airport, so we don’t need to fund the Eagle Airport.”
Truth: The fact is, visitors that use the Eagle Airport stay longer, spend more dollars than other visitors and are more likely to be repeat guests. All of which benefits the Eagle County economy.
Myth No. 4: “The Eagle Airport can pay for service or reduce their costs to make it financially possible for the airlines to bring new service.”
Truth: Any and all revenues generated by the Eagle Airport must be reinvested back into the airport in such a way that benefits all airlines equally, such as infrastructure upgrades, but not providing concessions to any one airline by providing a subsidy for service.
Myth No. 5: “A tax is not needed for airline funding, private enterprise should fund this.”
Truth: The current funding structure for Eagle Airport is both unreliable and insufficient because it relies upon annual “variable” public and private funds, making it very difficult to capitalize on all of the potential opportunities for Eagle Airport.
While many myths are out there about how rural resort airports truly work, it is comforting to know that a huge majority (94 percent!) of people in Eagle County recognize that the Eagle County Regional Airport is a vital connection to our continued economic success.
Interested in learning more about air service to the Eagle County Regional Airport? Learn more at http://www.egeairalliance .com and stay tuned for details on an upcoming public meeting.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.