Eagle Co. Airport earns praise despite crowds | AspenTimes.com

Eagle Co. Airport earns praise despite crowds

Scott N. Miller
Vail correspondent
NWS Airport1 SM 2-20

GYPSUM ” John Lavelle loves flying in and out of the Eagle County Airport.

A pilot for American Airlines, Lavelle by necessity knows about airports. And, while he said he “loves” coming to Eagle County, he’s looking forward to better days.

“It’ll be nice when they extend the runway,” he said. That way, summer flights will be able to leave the airport with a cabin full of passengers. Summer flights can’t do that now because the valley’s thin air gets even thinner in the heat of summer. (Aspen’s airport, which experiences the same phenomenon, is also planning a runway extension.)

Lavelle and a handful of passengers on a recent Monday morning flight to Newark, N.J., all said they like using the airport.

“This is like a Rolls Royce,” said Tom Sandell of New York City. “It’s a great airport.”

But some people who work at the place day in and day out see room for improvement.

“The problem is when we’re at full operation,” said John Christner, a local manager for one of the airlines. Long lines develop for baggage screening, he noted.

Sometimes those lines can force flight delays.

A lack of space on busy days can be felt inside and outside the building, added Bill Horan, local manager for World Wide Flight Services, the company that handles baggage and other ground-based work for most of the airlines that use the airport.

“I’ve seen people start to line up a half-hour before the restaurant opens just so they can get a bagel,” Horan said.

Horan and Christner said the county employees who work at the airport are pleasant to work with and do their best to get problems solved. The major problem, they say, is growth and how fast it’s come.

Airport employees are considering more restaurant and retail space on the front side of the terminal and long-range plans could include a building addition.

“We’ve grown a lot quicker than we expected,” Anderson said. “We’re elated about that, but we have work to do.”

While the Eagle County Airport serves travelers bound for nearby ski resorts like Vail and Beaver Creek, an estimated 45,000 to 50,000 people per winter who are headed to Aspen/Snowmass also fly into the airport. From there, it’s roughly a 75-minute ride to Aspen.

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