Aspen’s popularity leads to flight delays leading into holiday weekend
Aspen appears to be in high demand as a Presidents Day Weekend destination, with commercial and private flights delayed more than two hours Friday at the Pitkin County airport.
And with snow predicted for Saturday through Monday, airport officials expected the flight delays to continue throughout the weekend.
“It’s a peak, peak weekend for us,” said John Kinney, airport director. “Expect to see ground delays through Saturday if not Sunday.”
The ground delays at Aspen airport Friday were running two-and-a-half hours, meaning that flights were being held at their points of origin for at least that long before being allowed to take off for Aspen, he said. Friday’s delay — which began at 30 minutes and gradually increased — came in spite of warm, sunny weather in the Aspen area.
“(The delay) is due to volume only (Friday),” Kinney said.
Ground delays Thursday at Aspen airport were running about 30 minutes thanks to snow and flight volume, he said. The airport handled 300 flights in and out Thursday, about 50% more flights than the facility handles on a busy day, he said. The breakdown was about 80% private planes and 20% commercial.
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for the Aspen area Friday afternoon effective from Saturday evening through Monday afternoon. The storm was expected to drop between 10 and 15 inches of snow and possibly more in higher elevations.
“Travel could be very difficult to impossible,” according to the NWS watch. “Patchy, blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility, especially on ridge tops and mountain passes.”
The watch area covers Aspen, Snowmass Village, Steamboat Springs, Vail and Crested Butte.
The airport may run out of parking spaces for private planes, with 47 jets parked on the tarmac as of Friday afternoon, Kinney said. The airport can park between 75 and 90 planes depending on their size before passengers must be unloaded and the planes flown elsewhere to be parked, he said.
Aspen is the third-busiest airport in Colorado behind Denver and Colorado Springs, Kinney said.
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This summer in Aspen is likely to include indoor and outdoor concerts, maskless gatherings and no state or county-mandated restrictions on social distancing at restaurants or anywhere else.