Airline’s foray into Aspen a welcome sign |

Airline’s foray into Aspen a welcome sign

The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Tuesday’s announcement that AmericanAirlines this winter will begin flying between Aspen and both Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles is welcome news on more than a few levels.

From an economic standpoint, it means that more visitors will be flying into the area during the winter and summer tourism seasons. Their dollars will boost hospitality-driven businesses, and the trickle-down effect on other industries and government coffers certainly cannot be discounted.

It also serves as another reminder that the local economy is headed in the right direction. The hard times aren’t necessarily over, and many businesses and families continue to struggle in the wake of the Great Recession. But nearly 500 more people are employed in Pitkin County this summer compared with a year ago, real-estate sales are picking up, and there are fewer empty storefronts in the city’s commercial core.

AmericanAirlines’ entry into the local market, providing a third option for commercial flights at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, offers another positive reading on the barometer of economic progress. The Dallas-based airline would not be coming here if the move didn’t make financial sense.

The lengthening of the local airport runway by 1,000 feet – a project now under way and expected to be finished this fall – proved to be the crucial element in making the airline’s foray into the area possible, noted Gary Foss, vice president of planning and marketing for the company. The collaboration among private businesses, local governments and tourism agencies also aided the recruiting effort.

An incentives package from the city of Aspen, the town of Snowmass Village and Pitkin County, along with the Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Chamber Resort Association and Snowmass Tourism, kicked in a measure of necessary support. As Bill Tomcich, president of reservations firm Stay Aspen/Snowmass, pointed out, airlines don’t launch service into a community without some level of local buy-in.

Tomcich is to be commended for his tireless commitment toward luring the airline to the Aspen-Snowmass market. Bringing together the right people and pushing for the required incentives was no easy feat, and represents a lot of hard work and long hours. He didn’t do the work alone but his dedication to the initiative also was key to its success.

American will fly its CRJ-700 jets into Aspen. Starting Dec. 15, the company’s American Eagle affiliate will offer one nonstop flight per day between Aspen and the two major metropolitan areas. That’s a valuable connection, given that international visitors will be afforded more direct access to the area and its myriad winter and summer activities. Service will be on hold during the 2012 spring shoulder season, starting April 3, but will return from June 15 to Aug. 20, a typically busy period for the local tourism industry.

When you see an American Eagle plane taking off and landing or hear the engines roar as the jet streaks above Roaring Fork Valley skies, don’t criticize it as added noise and air pollution. Rather, recognize the much-needed benefits the service is carrying into the community.

We need this. It’s significant.