Coronavirus created the shortest commercial jet flight in the country — Eagle to Aspen. But it won’t last. |

Coronavirus created the shortest commercial jet flight in the country — Eagle to Aspen. But it won’t last.

The Department of Transportation is expected to OK the end of the “mountain hopper” that circles from Dallas to Eagle, Aspen and Montrose and back to Texas to meet federal rules in a $58 billion coronavirus stimulus package for airlines

GYPSUM – The flight from Eagle County to Aspen, at 29 miles, is the shortest commercial jet flight in the country. At $29 a ticket ($45 with fees and taxes) it’s hardly a moneymaker for American Airlines. But the temporary flight keeps the airline in good graces with the U.S. Department of Transportation, which requires airlines to maintain minimum levels of service into regional airports as part of a $58 billion airline coronavirus relief package included in the government’s late March CARES Act. 

In the past month, the DOT has allowed some airlines to suspend service after showing the agency how fleets of empty planes are crossing the country just to meet the CARES Act requirements. American Airlines did not win that exemption, so five days a week Flight 2986 soars from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport to Eagle, then Aspen and Montrose before returning to Dallas.

A couple of people get off the plane in Gypsum and about six passengers board, with the gate attendant rolling through the boarding sequence of Group 1 to Group 8 in less than 10 seconds. There are maybe 21 people aboard the 17-row, 64-seat jet. The scattered array of passengers are part of a new pandemic-orchestrated seating plan that keeps everyone safely distanced.

“Welcome to our continuing mountain town tour,” the pilot says over the intercom as passengers settle. 

He’s the leader of a SkyWest flight crew that operates flights on behalf of American Airlines. All of them are “Aspen certified.” This means they have been specifically trained for this next leg, which threads a narrow shot up the Roaring Fork Valley into Aspen’s Sardy Field. 

Read the full story via The Colorado Sun.

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