American and United loving GUC
By Mark Reaman
Winter air service into the Gunnison-Crested Butte (GUC) airport is looking up for the 2023-24 ski season. Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) air consultant Bill Tomcich informed the board at the last meeting that in his discussion with both United and American airlines, the representatives are very happy with how Gunnison is performing.
“The American flights to Colorado ski resorts from DFW have two high performing airports — Gunnison and Aspen,” he said. “American has added a second daily flight into Gunnison for the Christmas holiday season between December 21 and January 7 because of its strong past holiday performance. They have also added an additional Saturday trip from February 17 to March 30. Many other airports are seeing reductions in flights but not here. American is very pleased and so is United.”
United flights to GUC from Houston are scheduled to resume December 14. United will also bring in two daily flights from Denver. The full complement of direct winter flights will kick in December 21, which is a week later than last season but Tomcich said that makes sense. “It is an ideal start time for winter,” he said.
Tomcich said the Houston flight will likely require a Minimum Revenue Guarantee (MRG) contract from the RTA, but it paid less than $12,000 last season against a cap of $481,146. The United MRG contract is expected to be similar to last winter’s. He said American didn’t seemed concerned with an MRG and is actually looking at providing direct summer flights from Dallas starting in 2024.
“Nothing is in writing, but it seems a good time to come off that MRG since JSX is giving American competition out of Dallas. American’s stance on MRGs is that they are a good tool to use to start up a flight but the flights should eventually be sustainable. We will know more later this summer.”
Tomcich said JSX is committed to four summer routes a week and they can more easily adjust their schedule if they aren’t working but last summer was a booming success. He said JSX lost money last winter on their flights from Dallas and Austin but they are considering another attempt at both. He said they may ask for some RTA financial assistance for the Austin flights but try to get them going for the Christmas holiday period.
As for the current period, Tomcich said spring flights ran a 64% load factor compared to 45% in 2022. Part of that is there is less capacity coming in. June is expected to see a load factor near 70% and July is looking similarly strong. August and September are pacing ahead of last year, but Tomcich said those flights are too early to tell.
He said the United flight to GUC out of Denver this fall will be an overnight flight that comes in late and leaves early the next morning.