Letter: How to get more people to fly out of Eagle County
Enjoyed reading Scott Miller’s story regarding the grants under Small Community Air Service Development. As one who uses (or prefers) Eagle, it would be nice to see this grant build confidence with airlines to provide year-round service. Buying the attention of airlines for smaller communities is not new. Wichita, for example, tried for years to get Southwest to provide service using these type of grants.
Where this story falls short is that the airlines assume that EGE travelers will “pay more,” either for convenience (versus Denver) or just because most of the real estate in the area is owned by the wealthy. I’ve seen 50-100% premiums for trips ending in Eagle versus Denver, particularly in the summer. In the winter, the fares are slightly more competitive (and the afore-mentioned premium is much lower) due to more absolute flights and carriers like Delta who flies 757s with a large number of seats to fill.
Where Peter Dann and Chris Romer could help the cause is to convince the airlines to offer Eagle return airfares at more competitive prices (e.g. matching Denver fares) which will benefit the locals and more importantly those who work in the valley. The airlines are excellent at building multiple pricing schemes and what I’m suggesting is nothing new. The airlines should premium price those coming in for a vacation just as any local business does. However, consider giving those that work in the valley (and those that make Eagle County home) a reason to start their journey from Eagle, versus driving or taking a bus or van to Denver and managing revenue this way through round-trip pricing back to Eagle. Presently, summer fares from Eagle to anywhere are far too high for the average valley worker; not as much from Denver. Unless you’re an airline employee or have a stash of loyalty points, it’s cost beneficial to start the trip in Denver versus Eagle, which United and American are premium pricing.
The unintended benefit of this idea to the airline is that they can become less dependent upon vacation travel. Right now, their present pricing schemes do not bode well for airlines to consider some year-round frequency of Eagle flights. Absent new thinking being brought to the airlines, these grants may not realize the intended benefit. Romer indicates he knows a number of local frequent fliers; call us together and we might have some ideas for his consideration to take to the airlines. I prefer Eagle but not at a 50-100% premium versus Denver.