Flight 4047: a test in patience
ASPEN Aspen is no stranger to cracking lists that inflate its gaudy image. But a list released this week is one it probably could do without.The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that SkyWest Airlines’ flight 4047, which flew 16 times from Aspen to Salt Lake City in December, was late 100 percent of the time, making it the most frequently delayed flight in the country that month. And SkyWest’s flight 5800 to Chicago from Aspen was late 94.4 percent, good enough for a No. 5 ranking, the report shows.”I don’t think anybody wants to be on that list,” Jim Elwood, director of Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, said Friday.SkyWest, in fact, anchored the Top 5 list, holding down each spot. Specific daily flights to Salt Lake City from Dallas/Fort Worth, Steamboat Springs and New Orleans were delayed 100 percent of the time. But the Aspen-to-SLC flight took top honors because the waits were the longest – averaging 85 minutes – data shows.Said Bill Tomcich, president of the central reservations firm Stay Aspen Snowmass: “Obviously that’s discouraging news, and even more alarming is that two of the top five spots are out of Aspen.”Even so, Tomcich noted that SkyWest, while its flights ran late, still completed nearly 91 percent of all of its flights out of Sardy Field in December, tops that month for Aspen commercial flights. At 63.9 percent, SkyWest also had the lowest on-time arrival rates in the U.S. in December, according to the report. Most of SkyWest’s December problems were because of bad weather, including two blizzards at Denver International Airport, which was forced to close twice. December also didn’t bode well for arriving flights at Sardy Field, where just 44.1 percent of them arrived on time and 19.3 percent were canceled, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.”December has been well documented as not being a solid month,” Elwood said. “There were weather delays in Salt Lake City and a combination of events that put us in that position.”The barometric pressure woes added to the frustration. Fifteen flights involving the CRJ-700 jets, which are operated by SkyWest for Delta Airlines, were grounded in one day in December, and 106 were canceled in all because of the barometric pressure problem. Airport officials, however, are confident a software upgrade to the aircraft will allow it to fly when the barometric pressure dips below 29.63, something it could not do before. “When the February stats come in I would expect a significant improvement in airline service,” Elwood said.Rick Carroll can be reached at email@example.com
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