United to offer daily flight from Bay Area to Aspen | AspenTimes.com

United to offer daily flight from Bay Area to Aspen

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

United Airlines will offer a daily nonstop flight between Aspen and San Francisco International Airport this winter.

The news of the flight service, which will run from Dec. 13 to April 6, was received with a gasp by a crowd of locals at Thursday’s Aspen Chamber Resort Association community luncheon. According to Stay Aspen Snowmass President Bill Tomcich, the airline’s decision for the flight came as a surprise.

“It’s been on our wish list for many years, and the fact that we saw it on the computer reservation system so suddenly this morning came as a pleasant surprise,” Tomcich said. “We knew that San Francisco has always been one of our top markets, and it’s a hub for United Airlines. Those two things combined are the recipe for a successful flight.”

Of all the places Aspen visitors arrive from, the San Francisco Bay Area is fourth on the list, following New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, Tomcich said. The flight will depart from Aspen at 8:45 a.m. seven days a week, arriving in San Francisco at 10:20 a.m.

The flight will then depart San Francisco at 11 a.m. and arrive back in Aspen at 2:35 p.m. Tomcich said the two-and-a-half-hour flight will be extremely competitive with San Francisco residents’ trips to the Lake Tahoe resorts, a minimum four-hour drive.

“There is no other nonstop flight from the Bay Area that lands directly at a resort,” Tomcich said. “On an American Airlines direct flight to the Eagle County Airport it is still a 35-mile drive to Beaver Creek. If you fly to Salt Lake City, you still must drive 40 minutes to get to Snowbird or Park City. It’s a first for San Francisco to have a nonstop flight that lands within three miles of a ski resort.”

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Because the announcement was a surprise, Tomcich said the main winter brochure put together by the Aspen Skiing Co. that goes out to past guests had to be updated at the last minute on Thursday to meet a printing deadline. The brochure now touts the nonstop flight.

“I think it will be a really great alternative for people in that market that are considering skiing out of state, as well as people who are tired of driving to Tahoe,” said ACRA President Hana Pevny, who owns a home in the Bay Area. “We’ll definitely be making ourselves visible in that market.”

Barry Lefkowitz, vice president of Aspen Ski Tours, a reservations agency that books 10 percent of local travel business, said he can appreciate the business 88 passenger seats from a new area will bring. But first, he needs to see proof that the demand is there.

“I think we will see whether they can maintain that kind of business to justify the daily flight. Sometimes it takes more than one season for people to become aware of a flight,” he said. “If a flight is once a week that’s one thing, but filling a flight every day is a different animal. Time will tell.”

Lefkowitz said Aspen Ski Tours will be promoting the flight by offering vacation specials based around it.

Although the complete winter flight schedule into the Aspen airport has not been finalized, Tomcich said he’s expecting comparable numbers to last ski season, including some more convenient flights. A United Airlines flight to Los Angeles will depart an hour later than usual, in accordance with many customer requests.

United Airlines, NorthWest Airlines and America West Airlines will continue to offer service between Aspen and Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Memphis for this winter.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]

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