American flights divert to Grand Junction |

American flights divert to Grand Junction

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times
While United Airlines aircraft was flying in and out of Aspen on Thursday, flights on Americans Airlines were diverted to Grand Junction because of an equipment failure that emerged Tuesday.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Aspen-bound travelers on American Airlines have been taking the long way to town since Tuesday.

American’s flights have been diverted to Grand Junction because of a navigational-equipment outage at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, officials said. United Airlines’ service, however, has not been affected.

Dustin Havel, the airport’s assistant director of operations and facilities, said Thursday he expects American to resume its flights to and from Aspen today. Envoy Air operates the Aspen flights on behalf of American.

But first, the Federal Aviation Administration will do a flight check at 8 a.m., he said. The source of the problem is one of the airport’s two localizers, which are navigational aids that help direct planes on their approach to the runway. The localizer used by American has been out of service since Tuesday. The one United uses is working, and private flights have not been affected, said an official at Atlantic Aviation, the airport’s base operator. Both localizers are owned and maintained by the FAA.

“If the FAA confirms that it is working properly from a testing perspective, then it will be back online,” Havel said.

American serves Aspen with daily direct flights from Dallas and Los Angeles, accounting for 15 flights a week (the airline offers two Dallas flights on Saturdays). A message seeking comment from the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline was referred to the Aspen airport.

Bill Tomcich, president of the central reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass, said he was one of the affected travelers Tuesday, when he was en route to Aspen from Dallas on American Airlines. Tomcich said the full airplane was rerouted to Grand Junction, and passengers were shuttled to Aspen in two luxury limousines with all-black leather seats.

“We had to wait a grand total of 35 minutes before they left for the Aspen airport,” he said. “It was the nicest shuttle I’ve ever been on. The bottom line is I think American did an outstanding job.”

But not all travelers were praising American. One person took to Twitter to complain, accusing the airline of not being straightforward about the issue. Another person who contacted The Aspen Times about the service also said it was difficult to understand why the diversions were made. Some travelers were told they were weather-related, she said, contending that the airline has done a poor job of communicating with passenger about the diversions.