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Delta flies into Aspen market

John Colson
The Delta CRJ-700, a regional jet, will begin service to Aspen in June. (Courtesy Delta Air Lines)
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Air service into Aspen will increase by one flight per day this summer, when Delta Air Lines starts flying nonstop between its hub in Salt Lake City and here.

Delta announced the new service today. The plan calls for its regional carrier, Delta Connection, to fly the new Canadair CRJ-700 twin-engine jet in and out of Sardy Field once a day from June 8 through Sept. 2.

SkyWest, which is set to begin flying the exact same plane for its United ExPlus connection between Aspen and Denver starting April 16, will also operate the Delta Connection jets. That is when the Air Wisconsin operating agreement for United Express comes to an end.

The 70-seat Delta Connection Canadairs will fly the 291-mile, one-hour trip from Aspen to Salt Lake in the mornings, and from Salt Lake to Aspen in the evenings.

The key benefit for local air travelers is that it will bring competition to a market long dominated by United Express, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass and the valley’s resident expert on airline issues.

“It’s going to offer an alternative,” said Tomcich, noting that travelers flying to or from the West Coast can cut an hour or more off their travel time by connecting through Salt Lake City instead of Denver.

Plus, Delta Connection offers flights to its hubs in the East, increasing the number of possible connections air passengers can make.

Another benefit, at least initially, will be lower air fares, according to Delta officials. The introductory cost of a ticket from Aspen to Salt Lake City is $109 if part of a round-trip fare, meaning a round trip will cost $218. The introductory prices are for tickets purchased by March 21, according to the airline.

Tomcich said there is no way of knowing how long the introductory fares will last, explaining that fares are determined by a supply-and-demand equation and up to the airline’s internal calculations.

According to Tomcich, today’s announcement amounts to Delta “sticking their toe into the market here to see how it feels.” He said it’s likely the service will continue through the fall and winter if demand from travelers warrants it.

“The fact that Delta has decided to add Aspen to the growing list of destinations served from their Salt Lake City hub will come as very exciting news to this entire business community,” Tomcich said in a prepared statement. “This flight cuts nearly an hour off the total journey time to and from cities throughout the west including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, it offers a new alternative from popular Delta markets elsewhere including Dallas/[Fort] Worth, Atlanta, Orlando and New York, and it even opens up dozens of smaller markets that used to be quite difficult to get to from Aspen like Kalispell, Mont., and Redmond, Ore. This new service will truly make travel to and from Aspen/Snowmass easier than ever.”

“Delta is thrilled to be able to offer visitors and residents of Aspen/Snowmass a quick and convenient new alternative to and from more than 100 destinations through our Salt Lake City hub,” Bob Cortelyou, Delta’s vice president of network planning, said in a press release.

The new service to Aspen is part of an expansion of Delta’s Salt Lake City hub that includes six other nonstop destinations: Bellingham, Wash.; Des Moines, Iowa; Fargo, N.D.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; Toronto, Ontario; and Victoria, British Columbia.

With the addition of Delta Connection, there will be four airlines flying into Aspen, including United Express, Northwest Airlink operated by Mesaba Airlines, and America West Express.

John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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