Ski season flights filling up for the end of winter

Summer Dallas flight not looking good

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

More people will fly into the Gunnison-Crested Butte Airport this winter ski season than have in decades. Adding to already busy flights landing at GUC this season, the incoming flights are crowded and filling up fast.

“We’ve knocked both the American and United air programs out of the park financially this season,” reported air consultant Kent Myers at the February 11 RTA meeting. “Winter has been terrific. We’ll have more people pass through the Gunnison Airport this winter than ever in recent times.” He noted the air program at GUC was larger and more robust in the early 1990s so while perhaps not reaching that peak, the numbers are currently trending in the right direction and seeing significant highs.

Tourism and Prosperity Partnership executive director John Norton agreed that a modern record for winter passengers will be set this year. “We are seeing stronger than anticipated sales later in the season, so we’ll stretch our marketing programs out. We’ll have a modern record for winter by a very good margin,” he said.

Myers said both airlines had a positive balance in December and January of this season. United’s load factor is more than 70 percent in February and American is seeing close to an 81 percent load factor for the month. He expects to end the season even busier. “It just continues to pace up with solid bookings,” he said.

Given the trend, Myers expects a busy spring and summer for the airport as well. “The airlines see GUC as a hot market right now,” he said. “Like all resort airports it saw an uptick with COVID as people moved to work in nice places and use the airport. Even more people will fly as regulations get relaxed with things like easing mask mandates.  I am feeling very bullish about the air programs. We want to keep that momentum.”

United plans to continue two flights per day into GUC from Denver even after the ski season ends. Myers said that could go to three flights a day starting in early June. That is the same time that the summer flights out of Houston will start coming into the valley, so for much of the summer there will be four flights a day.

The hoped-for summer service out of Dallas is looking less likely as Myers said a pilot shortage is impacting American Airlines and so starting a new route is not probable.

Myers said the one negative that is on the horizon is rising fuel costs. “Inflation is alive and well and we’ll see probably a three or four percent increase in fuel costs,” he noted. “But I can’t say enough good things about the air program right now.”

Meanwhile GUC airport manager Rick Lamport said the terminal construction is “progressing really well.” While some of the construction is not happening as originally scheduled due to things like supply chain issues, he expects the construction project to finish up this June or July. 

“There are lots of improvements going on and things are heading in the right direction,” Lamport concluded.

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