United Express cuts its ACRA membership | AspenTimes.com

United Express cuts its ACRA membership

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Citing budget cuts, United Express has canceled its membership in the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, a move that will cost the chamber approximately $8,000 in membership revenue next year.

But the chamber had prepared for the loss, said ACRA President Hana Pevny, and will soon begin a campaign to woo the air carrier back to the organization.

United Express has become one of the ACRA’s biggest members in recent years, second only to the Aspen Skiing Co., Pevny said during a Wednesday morning chamber meeting. But the airline, whose service into Aspen is operated by Air Wisconsin, currently faces the same financial difficulties as the rest of the travel industry.

When United Express and Air Wisconsin looked for ways to tighten their belts, the ACRA membership was put on the chopping block, Pevny said.

“It wasn’t a local decision. It went all the way up to [headquarters in] Chicago,” she told the ACRA board. “They started cutting the budget and thought, `What is this? We don’t need this.'”

“Air Wisconsin is turning over every possible stone,” agreed Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass. “That $8,000 became a target.”

The membership cancellation won’t affect the budget or operations at the ACRA next year, Pevny said.

“We prepared the budget knowing that they were not going to renew their membership,” she said.

But the chamber isn’t completely prepared to let United Express go. Pevny said the chamber hopes to meet with airline officials and tout the various perks of an ACRA membership – those beyond a discount ski pass, anyway.

ACRA officials will look at a variety of tailored plans to be offered to the airline. Adjustments could include a reduced cost, or even an in-kind membership that would provide the chamber with cheap travel via United Express.

Though plans are still in preliminary discussions, Pevny said the lines of communication remain open with United Express.

“We believe that there’s an opportunity to go back to them,” she said.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]