Frontier appears to spur new business in Aspen |

Frontier appears to spur new business in Aspen

ASPEN ” Frontier Airline’s new Lynx service captured 27 percent of the business at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in June, but didn’t appear to steal passengers from United Express, the biggest carrier in the market.

Lynx had 4,292 passenger boardings in June compared to 10,757 for United service through its Mesa and Skywest affiliates, according to data collected from the air carriers by the airport staff. Delta had 723 passenger boardings, known as enplanements in the airline industry.

United Express’ market share was 68 percent in June while Delta’s was about 5 percent.

Frontier and United also are the two busiest carriers at Denver International Airport. Frontier filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in April, the same month it began serving the Aspen airport through its new subsidiary. It offers four daily flights on its Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft. June was the first time business could be gauged after the tourist season started.

United Express’ 10,757 enplanements in June was on par with its performance in June 2006 when it had 10,923 passenger boardings. Data from 2007 does not provide a good comparison because the airport was closed for one week for resurfacing of the runway, noted David Ulane, the airport’s assistant director of aviation.

“While it’s difficult to draw too many inferences from one month’s data, it appears that Frontier’s new service is not ‘siphoning’ any of United’s existing passengers,” Ulane said in an e-mail interview.

The total enplanements at the airport for June jumped to 15,772 from 12,075 for the same month two years ago. That is an increase of 3,697, or about 30 percent. Since United’s numbers were flat, the increase is because of the extra service via Lynx.

Ulane said the Lynx service may have attracted business from people who typically drive to Denver International Airport or Eagle rather than fly out of the Aspen airport.

“Our thought is that Frontier’s new service has stimulated use by travelers ” both local and non-local ” that would have otherwise used another airport and driven to/from Aspen,” Ulane said. “If this is the case, we realized a significant direct benefit of improved local air service, which is fewer cars on the road, reduced highway congestion and less vehicle emissions.”

A telephone call to the Frontier Airlines communications department wasn’t immediately returned, so it’s unknown if the carrier was satisfied with its June performance here. However, an important airline measurement called a “load factor” was significantly lower for Lynx on its Aspen service than on its other routes. The load factor measures how many seats available in a market were filled.

Lynx flew 119 flights out of Aspen in June for a total of 8,806 seats, Ulane said. Only about half of those seats were filled.

Meanwhile, Frontier reported that Lynx overall had a load factor of 68 percent in June.

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central reservations agency and the business community’s liaison with the airline industry, was out of the office Tuesday and unavailable for analysis of Lynx’s performance to start the summer.

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