Eagle County airport scrambles to add parking | AspenTimes.com

Eagle County airport scrambles to add parking

Chris OutcaltVail correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. The parking area at the Eagle County Regional Airport is as jammed as Terminal Manager Chris Anderson has ever seen it.The three days before and after Christmas are always some of the busiest of the year at the county airport, but this year has been a little different, Anderson said.Eight hundred and fifty spaces at the airport were filled by Monday. On Tuesday, airport officials cleared snow from a grassy area just inside the airfield, next to the airports administration building, to use as an overflow lot. Theyve never had to do that before, Anderson said.The airport also expanded parking by 112 spaces last summer.Its a good thing we did its a really good sign, said Anderson, who estimated the overflow lot would allow about another 250 people to park at the airport.Only passengers that are parking for fewer than seven days can use the overflow lot. Weeks ago, officials were worried the economic recession might affect the number of people using the airport during the holiday season.We thought it would slow a little, but it didnt have any affect, Anderson said.Both incoming and outgoing flight bookings are similar to what the airport has seen the last couple years at this time, he said.Bookings have really caught up about three and a half weeks ago with all the snow, Anderson said. Its caught up to be pretty typical for this time of year.The packed parking lot is more of an indication of Western Slope residents using the airport, he said.Were elated that our locals can take advantage of the airport. said Anderson, who attributed some of the traffic to unusually low fares.Anderson said he recently checked the price on a flight from Eagle to Minneapolis, his hometown. It was $300, the lowest hes seen it in six years.Heidi Mellor, a travel agent at Overland & Express Travel in Edwards, said many of the flights out of Eagle are the same as fares at Denver International Airport.There are some pretty decent flights that are comparable to Denver, Mellor said.A flight from Eagle to Ft. Lauderdale is about $250 round trip depending on the days, Mellor said. A flight from Denver to Ft. Lauderdale is the same price, she said.Fares at the Eagle airport are often $200 to $300 higher than the same flights out of Denver, Mellor said.Its definitely working well to the locals advantage, Anderson said.Despite the parking difficulties, Commissioner Sara Fisher is excited the airport is busy.We have more people that want to utilize our airport, which is great, she said.But the parking congestion raises the question of whether free parking is the best thing for travelers using the county airport, Fisher said.At what point does free parking become more of a disadvantage to the average traveler? she said.The constant snow has added to the parking problem, officials said.We have to pile (the snow) somewhere, Anderson said. It takes up spaces until we can get it out of here. coutcalt@vaildaily.com

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