Aspen’s available airline seats down from summer 2021 but up from pre-pandemic levels
Summer flight schedule starts Friday for what is expected to be a busy season
When the summer airline schedule kicks in Friday at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, there will be fewer available seats than in 2021 but the same lofty expectations for a strong tourism season.
Bill Tomcich, a consultant with Fly Aspen Snowmass, projects that available seats will be down 10% June through October compared with 2021 but nearly identical to the pre-COVID level of 2019.
The decline in seats is almost entirely due to American Airlines cutting service from Phoenix to Aspen, he said. The number of available seats through American is expected to drop to about 44,850 this summer from 61,100 last summer.
The number of seats offered by United Airlines will be nearly the same as last year and higher than 2019, according to Tomcich. He projected United to offer 122,360 seats into Aspen this year compared with 124,460 last year and 114,170 in 2019.
“Things are looking really, really strong no matter how you slice it,” said Tomcich, who has been the upper valley’s business liaison to the airline industry for nearly 30 years. He is also managing partner of a company called Air Planners, which helps communities secure air service.
The available seats on both airlines combined are projected at 167,210 this summer compared to 185,560 last summer. There were 167,697 seats in summer 2019.
Last year, American Airlines engaged in aggressive scheduling into mountain resort markets in anticipation of a bounce back in leisure air travel compared with 2020, Tomcich said. This year, it wasn’t able to sustain that aggressive schedule because of a pilot shortage facing the entire airline industry, he said. American ended up cutting at least one route into several of its top mountain resort destinations, according to Tomcich.
“The pilot shortage is the only reason we’re seeing a capacity difference this year,” Tomcich said.
Another way of gauging service is to look at daily flights. United and American will combine to offer 18 daily flights and 19 on weekends into Aspen during the heart of summer, June 3 through Sept. 5, according to schedules. That is down from 22 daily and 24 on weekends last summer.
When considered on a weekly basis, the number of flights will drop 21.6% to 127 this summer from 162 last summer.
Despite the declines in flights and seats, Aspen-Pitkin County Airport director Dan Bartholomew expects one of the busiest summers at the airport due to high load factor on the existing flights. Tomcich concurred. The airlines have done a strategic job of utilizing their major hubs and historically strong markets for their direct service to Aspen.
“There is really strong demand for the flights we have,” Tomcich said.
United Airlines provides service between Aspen and Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago.
American Airlines will provide flights between Aspen and Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles and Chicago with weekend service from Austin.
The Buddy Program rang in the holiday spirit with their annual Gingerbread House Workshops in Aspen and Carbondale.