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The gateway to Aspen

Dear Editor:As a frequent flyer I read with great interest Andy Stone’s “Stone’s Throw” (Aspen Times, Dec. 2) regarding the Dash-8s. Coincidentally, I was sitting in a Dash-8 that was being buffeted by high winds at its customary 25,000-foot cruising altitude.At last, I thought, someone else had felt the heat that my fellow passengers and I were experiencing as we white-knuckled our way to Denver.It was with great disappointment, then, that I read the retort to that article by Bill Tomcich. (Aspen Times, Dec. 9). I sympathize with Mr. Tomcich, who has spent many years between a rock and a hard place in his role as liaison between the airlines and the flying public, but I took great umbrage with many of his points regarding the Dash-8 situation.First, let’s call a spade a spade. United is using Mesa Airlines and its shoddy fleet of Dash-8s as leverage in its relations with Air Wisconsin. They have let the contract carriers know that this market will be up for bid and, as soon as next September, it may well be that Mesa is United’s sole contract carrier into Aspen.This is a function of money. When Bill and the pilots for Mesa suggest that it is we, the flying/paying public, who are at fault here, they are being disingenuous. This is a corporate game and we are eating exactly what they are giving us.As for choice, Mr. Tomcich suggests that all customers have a choice of whether to fly a Dash-8 or a BA-146. But who really knows what aircraft you’ll be flying on a given leg? For future reference, the Mesa Airline Flight numbers for the Dash-8s begin with a 7, and the Air Wisconsin flights for the BA-146s begin with a 5.Ask your seat-mate the next time you are on a Mesa flight, after he has questioned the lack of overhead space, rechecked his bag at the door, recoiled at the torn seats and the chipped paint in the interior, and pondered the safety of the aircraft, whether he chose to fly a Dash-8 to his dream vacation in Aspen. Rarely will the answer be yes.Mr. Tomcich, (the president of a travel and reservations agency), also suggests that we use travel agents to book our flights. With all due respect, most people either book their flights themselves or have it done by a corporate travel department. Should we ask Aspen visitors to change their habits because we have an airplane issue? Come on.The fact is we have a problem. Blaming consumers for using discount travel websites, or suggesting that if they don’t like it they should change their schedules, hardly smacks of the customer service standards that our town aspires to.It is time that ACRA and the Aspen Skiing Co. realize that the gateway to our community runs right through Sardy Field. If they don’t, our visitors will find other gateways to go through. As recommended by their travel agents.Kelly J. HayesOld Snowmass


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