Business Monday: Aspen-bound commercial airplanes fuller this winter
Editor’s note: This article has been altered to show the correct number of airline round-trips in December, January and February. The mistakes were made due to a reporting error.
The commercial airlines serving Aspen are seeing an uptick in passengers this winter, with a number of factors playing a role.
Airline terminology refers to “passenger load factor” — the percentage of seats used to determine the financial viability of a route — and December through February showed significant increases in the metric, according to Bill Tomcich, a consultant to Fly Aspen Snowmass, a partnership among Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, Aspen Chamber of Commerce and Snowmass Tourism.
“When you have higher load factors, you have higher airfares,” he said.
The three airlines serving Aspen-Pitkin County Airport combined for a load factor of 70.1 percent in December, which accounted for 65,103 round-trip passengers and load factor improvement 16 percent over December 2017, Tomcich said.
With 80,817 round-trip passengers in January, the airlines posted a 70.8 percent load factor compared with 59.2 percent in January 2018. February saw 76,071 round-trip passengers, representing a load factor of 75.6 percent compared with 64.6 percent in February 2018, according to Tomcich.
December, January and February, respectively, posted increased round-trips of 9,000, 5,500 and 5,000.
“When you have higher load factors and combined with the weather, it means there are fewer empty seats when flights get canceled or diverted, and it’s not easy to accommodate,” he said.
There’s no arguing the abundance of snowfall has translated to increased business locally.
Snowpack in the Aspen area is 140 percent of median this winter, and Aspen Skiing Co. recently reported that the new Ikon Pass has translated into 9 percent of Skico’s total business through February. The Ikon Base Pass gives passholders five days combined at the four Skico resorts as part of access to 38 resorts.
Skico also recently said that local pass use is up 40 percent over the 2017-18 season because of the abundance of snowfall
February paid off for Aspen and Snowmass Village lodges because of the snow, as they combined for a record month of 79.4 percent occupancy, up 4.6 percent over February 2018. That’s according to the most recent Occupancy Update & Executive Summary issued by Stay Aspen Snowmass last week.
Each ski town also posted milestone occupancy performances in February, as Aspen had its second highest occupancy ever (78.7 percent, behind the record-setting February 2008), and Snowmass reported occupancy at 81.2 percent, a new record for the village.
Looking forward to March, Stay Aspen Snowmass said the month started at 70 percent occupancy rate, 13.2 better than February 2018.
“With a late Easter, school spring breaks shift into March creating a perfect storm of March demand,” the report said. “If March continues the trend of last-minute bookings like the previous months did, it has the potential to eclipse March 2017 that was our highest occupancy on record when we hosted World Cup Finals.
“We shall see what happens.”
The city of Aspen so far has its January sales tax figures in the books, which shows the first month of 2019 was up 2.6 percent over January 2018. The accommodations industry generated $33 million in January, pacing 6.2 percent ahead of January 2018, according to the city.
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