Aspen passenger boardings up 8.3% this winter for commercial flights |

Aspen passenger boardings up 8.3% this winter for commercial flights

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Passengers board a United Express flight at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Tuesday. United Express and the other air carriers experieced a strong winter.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

A strong winter for the commercial air carriers serving Aspen-Pitkin County Airport has already influenced the schedule of flights for next ski season.

The airlines combined for 136,968 passenger boardings from December through April, according to statistics the airlines supplied to the airport and compiled in a report by Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich, the Aspen-Snowmass business community’s liaison to the airlines.

The passenger boardings, known in the airline industry as enplanements, were 8.3 percent higher than the 126,535 boardings in the 2013-14 winter season. The statistics don’t include passengers who traveled by private aircraft.

Tomcich said the commercial air carriers’ enplanements were the most since 1997-98. United Express, American and Delta Connection have served the airport for the past three years.

“They’re very pleased,” Tomcich said of the airlines. He said they already have scheduled about the same number of flights and seats into the Aspen airport for next winter. That’s important for Aspen’s tourism industry because so many destination travelers — those taking overnight trips — arrive by air. The Aspen airport had 195 flights per week during the peak of the 2014-15 winter. That was up 5 percent from the prior winter. As many as 33 flights flew in on Saturdays.

United Express remains locked in as the major air carrier in Aspen. It registered 118,522 passenger boardings from December through April, up 4 percent from the prior winter. The carrier accounted for about 86 percent of the passenger boardings in Aspen for the latest winter, according to Tomcich’s report.

American had 12,521 enplanements, and Delta Connection had 5,925.

Airport Manager John Kinney didn’t return a message seeking comment about the strong season for commercial carriers.

United Express had the lowest load factor among the carriers. That’s an important airline-industry measure of how many seats into a market are filled. United Express was at 69.5 percent, American was at 76 percent, and Delta Connection was at 85 percent.

The mild winter also helped flight reliability. SkyWest, which operates United Express and some Delta flights, completed 2,053 out of 2,163 scheduled flights into Aspen for a completion rate of almost 95 percent. Of the 110 flights that couldn’t fly into Aspen, 79 were diverted to Grand Junction and ground transportation was offered to passengers.

For all carriers, the completion rate was 91.3 percent.

Tomcich noted that “the weather cooperated” during the winter. Weather bad enough to force flight cancellations was compressed into a few short periods, including the start of the Christmas holiday period.