Vail Daily column: Air service pays big dividends
The Eagle County Regional Airport is highly beneficial to the Vail Valley economy. Visitors coming through the airport have a direct economic benefit on every community in Eagle County, through visitation and/or through employment opportunities. Our top second-home owner markets mirror our nonstop flight markets, and local businesses can save time (and often money) by utilizing the Eagle airport instead of Denver International.
In the past few years, the airport has seen success — bringing in new flights from Toronto, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix and Washington D.C. This not only brings in more visitors that benefit our local economy, but also provides more destinations for locals to fly to without having to drive to Denver International Airport and survive the unpredictable Interstate 70 corridor.
This new and increased air service has been profitable to Eagle County. Approximately one-third of destination guests in Eagle County come in through the airport. These are valuable guests — research shows they stay longer and spend more money than other visitors. Increased accessibility also allows flexibility for local employers to utilize the Eagle airport for connections to major markets, saving staff time and increasing productivity for our local workforce.
Thanks to the efforts of the airport’s Air Alliance — a nonprofit group of community members, both public and private, that work to secure a strong and vibrant air program in the Vail Valley — new routes were brought to the Vail Valley for the just-ended ski season, and there are plans to bring more routes to the county moving forward.
First, our winter season successes: United Airlines began service from the D.C. and American Airlines began service from Phoenix.
These winter routes — along with the Toronto service — have a significant return on investment to our community:
• Toronto: 65 percent load factor and $985,396 economic impact.
• Washington: 71 percent load factor and $1,967,634 economic impact.
• Phoenix: 70 percent load factor and $4,379,011 economic impact.
We’re also happy to report the summer Houston service will continue on United Airlines and that American Airlines is expanding the Dallas service through October and November, giving us 10 months of service through this key business and leisure hub. These routes also have a significant return on investment:
• Houston: 65 percent load factor; $1,667,762 economic impact.
• Dallas (fall): 60 percent load factor; $3,690,125 economic impact
Together, these flights brought in more than 9,327 passengers and created more than $12.5 million in economic impact.
Why focus on air service? Simple — because so much of our local economy, job market and business depends upon the dollars spent by those who come through the Eagle County Regional Airport. Alliance members recognize the positive impact air service provides to our residents, businesses and communities.
The airport is also a benefit for residents and businesses. While often more expensive than flying from Denver, it is remarkably competitive for business travel when all costs (travel time, mileage reimbursement, parking) are taken into consideration.
The Air Alliance and Eagle County Regional Airport continue to bring benefits to Eagle County businesses, residents and communities, and our lack of comparable investment in our air service program presents a very real economic threat to our community. Flight development and adding new air service through minimum revenue guarantees is a proven model that drives our economy.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at vailvalleypartnership.com.