More Chicago flights, more bus trips
By Mark Reaman
The Gunnison Valley Transportation Authority (RTA) board of directors set the winter flight schedules and winter bus schedules at the July 8 meeting. Both air and ground service will see a slight increase in service over last winter.
United Airlines service out of Chicago will get bumped up, with daily service during the holidays between December 16 and January 3. During Spring Break from February 18 to March 26, the service from Chicago will fly Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays. Last year there were 19 total round trips and this year there will be 39. Each flight has 70 seats, so that’s an extra 1,400 seats each way.
A slight decrease in service out of Dallas is set for next winter. The American Airlines flights begin on December 15 this winter but there will not be extra flights on Saturdays from the second weekend of January until President’s Day Weekend. Executive director Scott Truex said they are trying to add an extra Sunday flight during the Spring Break period.
The Alaska Air flight out of Los Angeles will be the same as last year, with flights coming in on Wednesdays and Saturdays from December 17 until March 25. The Gunnison Crested Butte Tourism Association executive director, John Norton, said the TA plans to focus on heavily promoting the L.A. flights next winter.
Houston service is also in the same position, with the exact same schedule as last year. That schedule includes daily flights from December 16 until January 3 and Saturdays from February 18 until April 1.
The increase in Chicago flights increased the guarantees that the RTA must promise the airlines. The board had budgeted $1.3 million in total guarantees but the Chicago situation increased that by about $272,000 above budget. Crested Butte Mountain Resort agreed to step in and pay the overage if it is necessary but Truex said that is highly unlikely.
“Our analysis shows that it is not likely we will pay more than $865,000 total and it is likely we will pay less than that,” he informed the board. “Our best estimate is that payments will total somewhere between $700,000 and $800,000. That estimate is based on reasonably stable load factors and fuel prices. The $865,000 amount would come in if load factors dropped 2 percent and fuel increased 25 percent from last year.”
As for buses, the board agreed to increase winter service between Gunnison and Mt. Crested Butte from 13 daily round trips to 17. Truex said this increase, along with running an extra bus during some peak times of the season, would help relieve overcrowding.
The fall and spring schedules will have eight daily trips. That is up from seven trips last spring and three trips last fall. The increase in bus service will add about $60,000 to the RTA budget.