The number of passengers boarding commercial aircraft in Aspen was up 5.5 percent during the heart of ski season compared with the prior winter.
There were 126,535 passenger boardings from Dec. 1 through April 30, according to statistics from the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central bookings agency. Last year there were 119,952 passenger boardings.
This winter was one of the better performances for the airport despite some challenges, according to Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass.
“That’s the third-biggest winter that the airport has experienced since the turn of the century,” he said.
Tomcich, the Aspen and Snowmass Village business community’s liaison to the airline industry, said the increase came despite a high number of canceled flights because of weather and a deadly crash of a private jet. There were 57 flights canceled Jan. 5 through 7 alone during the investigation of the crash on the runway.
If those cancellations are removed, the three commercial carriers completed 90 percent of their flights into Aspen during the course of the winter, Tomcich said, compared with nearly 95 percent in 2012-13.
“Tough weather here at (the Aspen airport), as well as elsewhere, especially in Chicago, contributed to this drop,” Tomcich said.
Weather cancellations weren’t isolated to Aspen. The airline industry had a high number of weather-related cancellations around the country, he said.
Going into ski season, the number of seats available was projected to increase by about 11 percent over the prior winter. The biggest difference was the new service by Delta Airlines.
However, the actual number of seats available increased by only 6.3 percent because of the cancellations, Tomcich’s research showed.
United Express carried 90 percent of Aspen’s winter passengers, according to airport data. United Express’ passenger boardings were up 3,888, or 3.5 percent, from the prior winter to 113,990 from 110,102, according to the data tracked by the airport.
American’s enplanements fell by 2,117 passengers in Aspen or 21 percent from the prior winter. Its enplanements dropped to 7,733 in 2013-14 from 9,850.
Delta Connection, which was a new service, carried 4,812 passengers out of Aspen.
Even with Delta out of the mix, the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport still would have logged an increase in enplanements compared with 2012-13. That reflects the strength of the winter business, Tomcich said.
Denver International Airport announced this week that its passenger boardings were up 2.1 percent from January through April.
In Aspen, the 126,535 enplanements by the three carriers combined trailed only 2009-10 and 2011-12 over the past 13 winters, according to Tomcich’s data. Frontier Airlines provided stiff competition to United Express during those prior winters. Frontier exited the Aspen market in April 2012.
The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport’s best winter since 2000 was winter 2011-12, with 134,511 passengers boarding. Frontier had 17 percent of the market that winter. Its presence drove down ticket prices.