Aspen winter air service a ‘powerful selling message’
December 19, 2009
ASPEN – Don’t look for signs of a recession at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
The three airlines serving the airport bump up their winter season service this weekend; the result is the most seats coming into Aspen since the banner winter of 1997-98, when an unprecedented five airlines served the resort.
“I don’t think everyone realizes what a powerful selling message this represents,” said Bill Tomcich, president of local reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass and the resort’s liaison to the airline industry. “We’ve got a lot going for us this winter.”
Add up the service slated for this winter on United Express, Frontier and Delta, and Aspen will see a 9.5 percent increase in the total number of seats coming in this ski season, with a minimum of 23 flights daily and up to 30 on Saturdays, according to Tomcich.
“We’ve got 35 percent more seats than we had in the 2006-07 ski season,” he said.
Business at the airport has been a bright spot since last summer, when the low fares being offered by the airlines enticed locals into flying in and out of Aspen instead of heading to the Eagle County Airport or Denver, where flights had traditionally been cheaper. The attractive fares continued through the fall, and airlines responded to the interest by adding flights this winter.
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The low fares have disappeared for the holidays and are now becoming tough to find for the rest of the winter season, according to Tomcich, but the airport has still reclaimed business that used to go elsewhere.
“What’s really, clearly happening is the airport is gaining a share that had been lost to other airports,” Tomcich said.
While lodging and airfare deals are working in a traveler’s favor, car-rental rates, particularly in Denver, are working in the airport’s favor. Rental rates have climbed dramatically, he noted, making a direct flight into the resort look even better.
Last winter, roughly half of the travelers who made Aspen/Snowmass their destination actually flew into Aspen, according to Tomcich. He looks for that number to rise this season.
This winter’s airline service moves into high gear this weekend.
The expanded service on United Express between Aspen and Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco started up Thursday; United also boosted the average number of flights from Denver to 12 daily.
Also Thursday, Frontier added a fourth daily flight from Denver and will add a fifth flight on Saturdays and Sundays, beginning this weekend, plus a sixth Saturday flight for the holidays.
Starting Saturday, Delta resumes its seasonal service to Aspen from Salt Lake City and Atlanta with daily nonstop flights, plus a second Saturday flight from Salt Lake, according to Tomcich.