Eagle County to see less summer air service this year

Only flights are from Denver, Dallas

Scott N. Miller
Vail Daily
The Eagle County Regional Airport’s summer service will be limited to flights from Denver and Dallas.
Nate Peterson/Vail Daily archive

Airlines will cut back this summer’s flights into the Eagle County Regional Airport.

Eagle County Aviation Director David Reid said traffic in the first quarter of 2022 increased 22% over the same period in 2021. Traffic in 2021 was the highest since 2008.

But the winter flight season ended April 5. Until next ski season, the airport will see three flights per day from Denver on United Airlines and one daily American Airlines flight from Dallas. There will be two flights per day from Dallas starting in June.

That’s a decline from 2021, when American flew into Eagle County from Chicago, and Delta Airlines had a flight from Atlanta.

Reid said the increase last year was due in part to cutbacks in international flights. With international flights back on airlines’ schedules, flights were cut back elsewhere.

Reid said the flights from Chicago and Atlanta performed “relatively well.” But, he added, airlines are currently working to build back from the significant cutbacks that came with the 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There’s a huge pilot shortage,” Reid said, adding that a lot of airplanes are parked right now in the desert Southwest.

Reid said airlines this year are working to rebuild capacity. But, he added, airport officials are still talking to airlines about adding routes to and from Eagle County.

Peter Dann is the chair of the EGE Air Alliance, a nonprofit group of local businesses and governments working to build service to Eagle County.

When asked about how the summer flight cutbacks will affect business, Dann said, “I guess we’re going to find out.”

Dann noted that the airlines are trying to hire people. But hiring pilots takes time and, obviously, people with special skills. Dann added that airlines are also short on aircraft and other equipment.

“Every airline has orders in,” Dann said, adding that most of those orders have been delayed by continuing supply chain disruptions.

Dann noted that he and other local representatives have been talking to airlines. But, he added, airlines are going to put equipment and people into routes that carry the most paying passengers.

Dann said this summer’s flight schedule has caused alliance members to focus more on the future than the here and now. And, he added, there are conversations bubbling for potential new service in 2023 and 2024. He didn’t share details.

The cutbacks in summer service this year come as Vail has adjusted its summer marketing to focus more on destination guests, people who tend to fly for their mountain vacations.

Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar said roughly two-thirds of those destination guests fly to those vacations. About 20% of those passengers fly into Eagle County.

Vlaar said she doesn’t expect less summer service into the local airport to have a “significant” impact on visitation, adding that service this summer will actually mirror the service available in 2019.

Coming airport work

Work will start this year on a project that will add another taxiway to the Eagle County Regional Airport.

Eagle County Aviation Director David Reid said the Federal Aviation Administration is funding 90% of a $1.4 million earthwork project to the taxiway to serve the north side of the airport runway. Of the rest, 5% is coming from airport funds. The remainder is coming from a state grant. No local taxpayer funds will be used.

Reid said the project will improve access to the Colorado National Guard’s High Altitude Aviation Training Site, as well as potential growth — perhaps additional hangars — on the northwest corner of the property.

The taxiway will be constructed in four years or so, but Reid said doing the earthwork now will save “a lot of money.”

The airport is also working on an updated master plan. That $750,000 project is also funded at 90% from the feds, with a state grant adding 5%.

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