A new flight touched down during the weekend at Yampa Valley Regional Airport that is designed to attract hunters and tourists to Moffat County this fall.
Saturday was the first day a daily flight was available from Hayden to Salt Lake City through Delta Airlines. Although flights aren't filled yet, the new service should attract hunters and tourists to area, said Ann Copeland, YVRA's interim manager.
"It's been light, but it will be pretty exciting," she said. "We're really trying to date the best part of Colorado for the fall."
The daily flight is funded for three years with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Delta will bill the airport as much as $250,000 for flights, but that amount could be reduced depending on how full flights are. Grant dollars, combined with contributions from local governments, are used to guarantee an airline that a certain number of seats are filled on each flight. The more tickets purchased by passengers, the less subsidy is used to pay for vacant seats.
The 71-minute flight to Salt Lake City is on a 70-passenger plane. The flight to Denver on United Express is on a 34-passenger plane.
Delta's larger plane can accommodate more luggage such as hunting equipment, which may be attractive to hunters, Copeland said.
Moffat County could benefit from the fall flights, with its hunting opportunities. The majority of travelers passing through the airport in summer and the ski season head to Steamboat Springs, but these flights may focus on the Yampa Valley's west end.
Copeland said the airline has been advertising heavily for the flights. They will be offered through mid-December. Passengers can connect to 80 cities through Salt Lake City.
The city of Craig, the town of Hayden, Craig Economic Development Partnership and the city of Steamboat Springs have pledged money to the ensure the service.
Jeff Haul, a driver with Alpine Taxi, said the new flight should help the valley economically. Haul said he hasn't yet had an increase in business from passengers on the flights, but it should pick up.
"I think everybody will benefit from this," he said.
Airline tickets for the flight can be purchased at www.delta.com.