United boosts winter service to Aspen

Aspen Times Staff
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” United Airlines has boosted its nonstop service between Aspen and both Chicago and Los Angeles for the coming ski season and has dropped back its summer fares for flights out of Aspen after they hit unprecedented levels.

Successful connections to both Chicago and Los Angeles last winter have apparently prompted an increase in service this ski season ” with three daily nonstop flights between Aspen and Chicago this winter, up from two last season, according to Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass and the resort’s liaison to the airline industry.

In addition, United is scheduling a second daily nonstop flight between Aspen and Los Angeles. The new flight leaves Aspen at 10:10 a.m., giving travelers an alternative to waiting until 8 p.m. for a flight out of Aspen to southern California.

The service begins Dec. 15.

United’s service to and from Denver for the winter consists of 13 daily flights in each direction ” comparable to what it offered last season.

Airline officials have also promised better service for the coming winter. At a July meeting with Pitkin County commissioners, executives with both United and SkyWest pledged to improve on last winter’s disastrous performance, outlining a plan that includes improved staffing in both Aspen and Denver, a better diversion plan when weather halts flights in and out of Aspen, expedited handling of excess baggage, improved communications and a commitment to better employee training.

Tomcich also noted the very expensive airfares out of Aspen this summer in his e-mail update. At times, his staff was pressed to find any fares out of Aspen for less than $700 to just about anywhere, he said.

“Quite frankly, at one point this summer, the published fares out of [Aspen] were at the highest levels I had ever seen them in my twelve years here,” Tomcich said in the e-mail.

Travelers found other means of getting to and from Aspen/Snowmass and United’s summer loads have suffered as a result, according to Tomcich, who said he pressed that point during a meeting with airline officials at United’s headquarters in Chicago earlier this week.

Starting Wednesday, the airline began offering more reasonably priced fairs to most domestic markets ” at prices starting in the mid-$400 range with 21 days advance purchase, Tomcich noted. Frequent United flyers who subscribe to United E-Fares may have noticed some last-minute web fares offered from Aspen for the first time ever, Tomcich added. Fares for flights between Aspen and Los Angeles this weekend were offered for $100 each way, he said.