Fine-tuning flights to the valley

Winter flights from Denver down, schedule to blame

By Cayla Vidmar

In a recap on September 28, the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) reported that while summer flights were successful, there will be fewer winter flights ahead. The winter flight out of Denver is causing some concern, with fewer flights booked compared to this time last year, and the flight schedule is likely to blame.

“We moved more people in the summer out of Houston than we ever have, and we lost the least amount of money ever on the program,” said Kent Myers, air service development consultant for the RTA. As Myers explained, air programs have myriad moving parts that influence the success or failure of the program. This summer, two different planes flew out of Gunnison, one of which had more seats and a first class option. During the RTA meeting, Myers explained that revenue from features like food, beverages, and upgrades on seats (like first class), are the bread and butter for air programs.

While the load factor on the larger plane was lower this summer, it made more money throughout the summer than the smaller aircraft without the first class option. Next summer, Myers is hoping to have a larger aircraft with a first class option for every flight, while continuing to iterate and improve the air program for summer.

In looking to the upcoming winter season, Myers was concerned about the Denver flight, which he noted did exceptionally well last season, despite the low snow year. “Last year at this time Denver was at 12.1 percent load factor overall. Right now it’s 7.5 percent,” Myers said during the meeting. “We know Denver works, but the schedule this year is horrible,” he concluded. Last winter season, Myers explained, there was an overnight aircraft from Denver, which came in at 6 p.m. and left the next morning.

The current flight schedule has the plane leaving at 3 p.m. for Denver. He is concerned the flight out of Denver could be pulled due to poor performance with the current schedule. Myers had a conference with United Airlines reps last week to discuss the schedule. He writes “the schedule changes March 1 back to an overnight rotation. United is looking to see what they can change to the overnight starting January 1 but December is off the table.”

Flights from Dallas and Houston will begin on December 19. Myers said the number of American Airlines flights out of Dallas has decreased 22 flights for this winter season compared to last year.

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