Gunnison air flying high into the summer

United expanding Denver service to at least 2X daily 

By Mark Reaman

Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) airline consultant Bill Tomcich is ebullient over the direction of the valley’s air service. He said last winter’s air service ended on a high note and told the RTA board during its May 17 meeting that United has committed to providing a minimum of two flights a day between Gunnison and Denver through next winter.

“United confirmed to me this week that they will be adding a second flight through the entire fall. Originally the plan was to go to one flight a day starting in late September,” he said. “That is great news. Hopefully it will continue through next spring if the market reacts favorably to the two-flights-a-day schedule. United is excited about twice daily flights to Gunnison (GUC) and the schedule allows Gunnison passengers to connect with all the United flights out of Denver.”

The United flights between Gunnison and Denver operate without any sort of local financial guarantee, so given that expansion Tomcich sees the trend as extremely positive for air service to the valley.

Last winter was considered a success in terms of ski season air service. “We had a strong finish in April with well over 90% of the flights being on-time. The load factor was strong at 55%,” he said. “The strong finish in April included a 100% completion of all scheduled flights in and out of GUC (just like in December), 94% of which were also on time.”

Overall for the winter, he said there were just 16 cancelled flight segments in or out of GUC. That compared to 112 cancellations the previous ski season. “It is great to see such a dramatic improvement in Gunnison,” he noted. He reported that the winter season ended with an overall flight completion factor of more than 98% compared to 92% the previous winter. Almost 89% of the flights were considered on time compared 75% the prior year. “The total number of flight disruptions at GUC this past winter was but a fraction of what it was the winter before,” he said.

Tourism and Prosperity Partnership (TAPP) executive director John Norton said he too was pleased with results of the air program last winter. “The drive market actually was a little soft this winter, but air stepped in,” he said. “We are now focused primarily on Texas to promote air availability for the summer,” he said. “There is no reason to think summer won’t come around.”

Summer service will include 15 flights per week between May 23 and September 21 from United running between Denver and Gunnison, two flights a week from United between Houston and Gunnison, and four or five flights a week from Dallas with JSX.

Tomcich said the closing of the Highway 50 bridge probably added some passengers to GUC flights when it became inconvenient to use the Montrose or Grand Junction airports. As for the coming summer, he said the two flights a day from Denver begin at the end of May. A third United flight will be added on Saturdays during the heart of the summer season. He said bookings for the remainder of the month are 35% ahead of last year. He said June is up 7% over 2023 while July is slightly behind. 

As far as the boutique air carrier JSX, Tomcich said they are committed to flying again this summer with scheduled flights four times weekly in June and five weekly flights in July and August.  

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