American Airlines cuts its Eagle Airport off-season service to twice a week | PostIndependent.com

American Airlines cuts its Eagle Airport off-season service to twice a week

Daily flights resume June 6, leaving Eagle County Regional Airport with just one daily carrier

Scott Miller
Vail Daily
american airlines airplane at eagle airport in colorado
American Airlines recently told county officials that it would suspend daily service to the Eagle County Regional Airport in the spring. Fall service will be just twice a week from October through the beginning of the 2019/2020 ski season.
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Who’s flying now?

United Express, with daily flights to and from Denver.

Ski season flights ended April 1.

EAGLE COUNTY — Once again, there’s only one airline — United Express — with daily service to the Eagle County Regional Airport.

While airlines have added more cities for ski-season service, American Airlines, a stalwart in the local air-service universe, is cutting back shoulder-season service.

American announced in 2017 that it would in 2018 begin full-time service to Eagle County from the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. This year, American has stopped daily flights April 1. Daily flights resume June 6. The airline will only fly twice a week from October through the start of the 2019-2020 ski season, when daily service will resume.

That’s disheartening news to those working to boost year-round service to the airport. The leader of that effort is the EGE Air Alliance, a nonprofit group that has board members from local governments and businesses.

Vail Town Council member Greg Moffet is a member of that board, and broke the news to the rest of the council at that group’s April 2 meeting.

‘It’s unfortunate’

“It’s very frustrating,” Moffet told council members.

Vail Valley Partnership President Chris Romer is also a member of the Air Alliance Board.

Romer said full-time service from Dallas was great news from both a business standpoint and as a benefit to the community.

“It’s unfortunate” to lose that service, Romer said. Group business is an important part of the Vail Valley’s business in the spring and fall.

Romer said from a marketing standpoint, it’s important to note there’s still spring and fall daily service through Denver. From a community perspective, though, cutting service from seven days a week to two makes marketing harder.

That means groups working to market the valley “need to fine-tune our message to days when we do have service?”

The good news, sort of, is that the twice-weekly service from Dallas won’t require minimum revenue guarantees. Those guarantees are generally provided by smaller regional airports to entice airlines to provide service. If an airline’s revenue exceeds a set amount, the community doesn’t pay. If revenue falls short, communities make up the difference. Many communities use some sort of tax to provide those service-enticing fundings. Eagle County relies on government general funds and business contributions to fund its revenue guarantees.

While it’s good that Air Alliance revenue won’t be tapped for the fall service from Dallas, the fact remains fewer flights will come.

So what happened?

Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll said he’s been told that equipment — having the right aircraft in the right place at the right time — not passenger loads, prompted the cutback.

It’s probably too late for this fall, but Shroll said air service advocates are still working to land more service.

“The airline industry is changing,” Shroll noted. “We need to see if there’s something in the future that would allow us to regain those flights.”

Shroll acknowledged the importance of daily flights in the spring and fall.

“That’s always going to be a pretty significant priority because of how it helps us in the shoulder seasons,” he said.

And backers aren’t just looking at Denver and Dallas. Shroll said Chicago is another destination that’s always looked at for “more robust service.”

Shroll said discussions with airlines continue, adding that he hopes to learn more in the next week or so.

In addition, the county is starting interviews to fill the currently-vacant aviation director’s position.

Air service development will be near the top of the list of things those candidates will be asked about.

“That’ll be a priority,” Shroll said.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.


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