Let the airline competition begin – again | AspenTimes.com

Let the airline competition begin – again

Abigail Eagye

Ever since Continental discontinued service to Pitkin County in 1994, United Airlines essentially has had a monopoly on flights to and from Denver.But all that might change if Frontier Airlines follows through with plans to buy new planes to target the Rocky Mountain region.Although Frontier officials haven’t announced exactly where those flights would go, they have said that Colorado resort destinations are on the list.That’s big news, according to Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass.”Frontier is the second-largest carrier in the Denver hub, but it currently has no regional connecting flights within the state of Colorado or the mountain region until now,” he said. United is the largest Denver carrier.”Denver is key, because it’s the No. 1 hub in the region,” he said. “It would probably be the most meaningful competition we’ve seen in this marketplace since Continental left.”Frontier flies to Albuquerque, N.M. and Salt Lake City, he said, but most people are accustomed to connecting through Denver.If Frontier begins flights from Denver, the competition could mean lower fares, not only because of the competition, but also because of the type of aircraft itself.”It’s incredibly fuel-efficient, and the per-seat costs are very, very low,” Tomcich said. That doesn’t automatically translate to lower prices, but “it creates an opportunity for Frontier to charge lower fares and still make a profit.”Other airlines have served and continue to serve Aspen, but they don’t offer the same frequency of flights to Denver as United. And the addition of some new routes basically offsets the loss of others. The recent addition of flights on Delta Airlines increases service, for instance, but those seats roughly replace what the county lost when Northwest departed, Tomcich said.”It’s been almost a musical chairs of who’s flying where this past year,” he said.Overall, the airport will see a slight increase in the number of seats into Aspen but the same number of carriers, he said. United will continue to serve Aspen, Delta has effectively replaced Northwest, and U.S. Airways has absorbed America West.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com