Reid: More flights at lower prices is the airport’s mission | VailDaily.com

Reid: More flights at lower prices is the airport’s mission

David Reid
Valley Voices

After 25 years working from the ground up at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport in Michigan, I was not anticipating a change of location in my career. I began as an intern shortly after graduating from Western Michigan University, rotating through just about every position before ultimately becoming the airport director. I worked in that capacity for five years until a hiring firm reached out to me and told me they might have a dream job in Eagle, Colorado. My wife and I visited and fell in love with the community and landscape, and we haven’t looked back since I started in the position this summer.

The Kalamazoo and Eagle airports are about the same size, built during the same era, so they have a lot of overlap in terms of opportunities and challenges. I hope to apply the lessons I learned operating that mid-size Midwestern airport to my new role as director of aviation for the Eagle County Regional Airport. I also plan to continue to grow relationships with the airline industry to get the best flight action we can here on the western slope.

Our county airport is poised to become a busy, state-of-the-art travel hub enjoying year-round activity without losing any of its charm or stress-free accessibility. My top mission is to provide more flights at competitive rates, so that locals, as well as visitors, will view the airport as a logical option for their air travel needs.

When I took the position in June, we were just a few weeks out from unrolling a $35 million renovation project. Our new terminal is absolutely beautiful. It’s more spacious, better lit, aesthetically pleasing, and outfitted with convenient charge stations, filtered water coolers, and a tasty café.

The newly implemented “common use” approach to our gates means more efficient onloading and offloading of aircraft. We’ve revamped our baggage sorting and delivery methods so that even during peak hours customers can expect their bags to appear promptly. Finally, we are completing an aircraft de-icing pad project that will wrap up next spring.

And that’s just the infrastructure. We have been working tirelessly to bring in more year-round flights to better serve our community. The airport now services 14 different cities nonstop daily during the winter months, recently adding Philadelphia as a new direct service. United recently announced it will fly direct to Chicago beginning in June. And American Airlines is bringing back its popular second daily flight to Dallas starting this spring. This isn’t meant to sound like a hokey ad — it’s just to say, offseason options are steadily improving. 

Our biggest challenge is building our summer service. Five years from now, I hope that our summer flight schedule is as busy as it is in winter. Eagle is competing with countless other airports for airlines’ planes and pilot resources. Sometimes it’s not even about the profit potential for the airlines— they simply do not have the capacity to bring service everywhere. That’s why we attend air service conferences, perform headquarter visits, invite reps to visit — whatever it takes to continually stay in front of the airlines so we can make our cases for which routes could flourish here.

Typically, when new carriers join a market, or existing carriers offer a new flight, competition kicks in and the market sees a price drop. My goal is to make Eagle a truly year-round airport, with more carriers and more affordable fares. I believe we can capture that market of locals willing to drive to Grand Junction or Denver for a better deal while unfortunately accepting more stress and uncertainty in their travel plans. It’s better for everyone if we can offer affordable service right from our backyard. I strive to help our airlines find that sweet spot where prices make sense for local fliers.

The airport is a significant piece of the economic engine of this community. It’s vital for maintaining international accessibility to our world-class recreation opportunities and allows the many types of businesses that rely on that trade to continue to grow. I hope to position the airport as an even better community partner, helping both residents and visitors alike have access to convenient, pleasant, and affordable air travel. I’m proud to be serving the people of Eagle County, and welcome any feedback to improve the travel experience.

David Reid is the director of aviation for the Eagle County Regional Airport. He can be reached at david.reid@eaglecounty.us. Travel information is available at flyvail.com.