Flight delays haven’t hit Aspen airport – yet
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – Flight delays being experienced in some parts of the country, a result of federal spending cuts, haven’t hit Aspen – at least not yet.
The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is not on the Federal Aviation Administration’s list of airports where control towers could be closed in mid-June, but it is affected by Federal Aviation Administration furloughs, according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer.
“The furloughs that we’re implementing are across the board,” he said.
Government budget cuts that kicked in last month have forced the FAA and other agencies to reduce their spending. The FAA said it would furlough all of its 47,000 employees, including nearly 15,000 controllers, on a rotating schedule. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week. The agency has said planes will have to take off and land less frequently so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty.
The FAA employs 18 people at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, including 16 controllers.
In Aspen, the spring offseason brings a noticeable lull in both commercial and private air traffic and Kenitzer said he did not expect the local airport to feel the impacts of the furloughs in the way that some large, metropolitan airports already have. The busy summer season could be a different story.
Kenitzer said he could not comment on what travelers should expect when trying to fly in and out of Aspen when the airport is at its busiest – the Fourth of July weekend, for example – if the furloughs continue.
The FAA has said it will work with airlines “to minimize the delay impacts of lower staffing” as the busy summer travel season approaches.
The furloughs began Sunday, but commercial airline flights continued to move smoothly throughout most of the country as the staffing reduction went into effect. There were some delays, though, including a handful of flights out of Denver International Airport, bound for Los Angeles. They were associated with air traffic in Los Angeles, The Denver Post reported.
The FAA issued a statement Wednesday that said travelers can expect to see a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day, depending on staffing and weather issues. It said more than 1,025 delays in the system on Tuesday were attributable to staffing reductions related to the furloughs. More than 975 additional delays were blamed on weather and other factors. Wind and other weather conditions can disrupt Aspen air travel.
The FAA is advising travelers to check the status of their flights and go to http://www.fly.faa.gov for the latest airport-delay information. Commercial arrivals and departures in Aspen appeared to be sticking close to their schedules Wednesday, according to information posted at http://www.aspenairport.com in the morning and at midafternoon.
Currently, United Express is the sole commercial carrier serving the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, providing as few as four daily connections with DIA and as many as six, depending on the day of the week.
Its schedule ramps up June 6, with 10 daily connections to Denver, plus daily flights between Aspen and Houston, Los Angeles and Chicago.
American Airlines resumes summer service to Aspen on June 12 with a daily connection to both Dallas and Los Angeles.
Last year, July and August were the two busiest months at the local airport in terms of overall aircraft operations, with 4,851 landings and departures in July and 4,582 in August. April 2012, on the other hand, was among the slowest months, with 1,628 operations. May was even slower, with 1,298 operations, according to data posted on the airport’s website. The figures include commercial, charter, private and military aviation, all of which depend on air-traffic control.
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