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Tourism official defends United

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A tourism official defended United Express yesterday after several passengers were left stranded at the Aspen airport Sunday evening due to the airline’s overbooking of its last flight of the day to Denver.

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, said such snafus are rare.

“Those were extenuating circumstances because [Sunday] was the busiest travel day of the year,” he said. “It was remarkable that 100 percent of the flights were operated on time. Every flight had been completely sold out.”

Some passengers were bumped from the 4:35 p.m. flight to Denver. They were given the options of taking a bus to Denver International Airport to board connecting flights or staying in Aspen an extra night with free lodging.

The Hermans, a family from Texas, declined bus service since they own a home in Snowmass Village, instead opting to fly out of Vail Monday afternoon. In an article in Monday’s Aspen Times, the Hermans claimed they were treated poorly by United Express staff, were not contacted about the overbooking in advance and were given limited options.

Tomcich, who could not be reached for comment Sunday night, denied those accusations. United Express officials would not comment.

“[United employees] were very professional and gave them reasonable options,” he said. “United did make an attempt to advise some passengers in advance.”

Tomcich said the effort to advise passengers of the overbooking was not entirely successful because immediate contact information ” such as cell phone numbers ” was often unavailable.

He added that overbookings by United Express out of Aspen are not as common as the Hermans claimed.

“Overall, this is the first time there has been an oversale out of Aspen in a long time,” Tomcich said. “Oversales happen, especially when you’re traveling on the busiest day of the year.”

United Express offers five flights daily to Denver from Aspen. The first four flights are aboard BAE-146 planes, which can carry 88 passengers. A turboprop plane is utilized for the last flight of the day, the 4:35 p.m., with a capacity of 37.

The smaller jet makes the last flight because of less demand, Tomcich said. Passengers on those flights are making connections to the West Coast, parts of the South and Chicago, he said, with no flights connecting to the East Coast.

“I’m really pleased with the job United Airlines has been doing the past couple years,” he said. “We’ve seen some real improvement [that has] made flying more reliable than it used to be.

“As a frequent flyer myself, I can attest to that personally.”

Beginning Dec. 15, United Express will offer close to a dozen flights a day, most of them aboard BAE-146 jets.

[Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com]


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