Yampa Valley Regional Airport sees 21 percent increase in Saturday inbound winter flight capacity

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— The emphasis recently for Yampa Valley Regional Airport has been on building capacity Saturdays, the day of the week that most winter vacationers prefer to travel in and out of the Yampa Valley.

“Saturday capacity is up 21 percent over last year. It’s our highest Saturday capacity since five years ago,” Janet Fischer, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. airline director, said to Routt County commissioners Tuesday. “Saturday is our best opportunity for higher load factors and higher (revenue) yields.”

The upcoming ski season flight program into the airport has boosted traffic, she said.

The airline schedule shows that 1,420 inbound seats are available Saturdays during the busiest portion of the ski season.

“Saturday is our peak day, and we grew the peak,” Steamboat Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Rob Perlman said.

The airline program has boosted Saturday capacity in several ways, including this year’s first direct flights from Seattle on Alaska Airlines operating a 70-passenger Bombardier CR7. In the case of Houston, the flight program was able to boost that route from a 160-passenger jet to one that can accommodate 183. The Saturday-only flight from Newark, N.J., was boosted from an Airbus 319 able to carry 120 passengers to an Airbus 320 that can seat 144.

The daily flight on American from Dallas has downsized from a 757 aircraft to a 737, Fischer said, but a second flight Saturday has been added to boost inbound capacity on that key day to 300 seats.

United Airlines has chosen this winter to compete with American Airlines' daily flight from Chicago O’Hare with a Saturday flight from Feb. 15 to March 29 that is not one of the flights the airline program secures with contracted revenue guarantees.

The added number of inbound seats adds up to a busy airport, Fischer acknowledged, especially during the middle of the day with the two flights from Chicago timed closely during the peak of ski season plus the Newark flight overlapping between 11:25 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.

However, some of the newer flights — including Los Angeles scheduled to arrive at 3:40 p.m., Seattle at 4:50 p.m. and the second Dallas flight at 6:50 p.m. — take the pressure off the busiest time for arrivals and departures on Saturdays.

There also are two Denver flights in the afternoon/evening mix.

Airport Manager Dave Ruppel said the timing of the late-afternoon flights helps significantly with managing passenger traffic through the terminal.

Perlman confirmed that two of the four daily round trips on United to Denver this ski season will be operated by SkyWest Airlines flying 66-passenger regional jets.

SkyWest also will operate flights from Los Angeles and Chicago for United and from Seattle for Alaska Airlines. The Seattle flight is a 70-passenger jet.

The ski area has unveiled discounted fares through the end of November, and Perlman said the promotion is driven by a hyper-targeted email campaign. It will reach returning guests and people on a prospect list within 100 miles of hub cities in Steamboat’s flight program as well as 24 cities with connections to those hubs that have performed well for Steamboat.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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