Strong fares, low fuel costs add up to $15.44 per passenger for Steamboat’s winter air program | CraigDailyPress.com

Strong fares, low fuel costs add up to $15.44 per passenger for Steamboat’s winter air program

Tom Ross

Alaska Airlines will begin serving Yampa Valley Regional Airport from Seattle twice weekly during ski season starting Dec. 18 with a 70-passenger CRJ7 jet.

— Resort and city of Steamboat Springs air service officials went into executive session Friday to talk about prospective contract terms connected with adding new cities to the existing roster of 11 served by direct flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden during ski season.

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.'s Airline Program Director Janet Fischer told members of the board of the Local Marketing District that among the hub cities that airlines have been asked about, but not necessarily those discussed at the end of Friday's meeting, were New York/LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Charlotte, North Carolina, Detroit, Salt Lake City, San Diego and several major cities in Florida.

"Our goal for 2015/2016 is to maintain our 11 core flights in place and to continue to grow … and also looking at expanding into new markets," Fischer said. "We look for other hubs. A hub city that connects to up to 100 cities works well for us. We don't, at this time, have a new one confirmed to be announced."

Fischer was speaking to the board of the Local Marketing District. Its members advise the Steamboat Springs City Council on the use of public tax dollars — lodging tax and general sales tax — used in combination with Ski Corp. funds and modest contributions from the business community at large, to put up minimum revenue guarantees needed to secure service contracts with the airlines.

Fischer's remarks came after she announced strong positive financial performance for the 2014-15 winter airline program. Low fuel costs for the airlines that were passed along to the Steamboat flight program, combined with higher average fares paid by travelers on "almost every flight," were the main reasons given for the strong yields on the flights.

The result, Fischer said, was that the airline program will pay the airlines $1.163 million compared to the maximum exposure in the combined contracts of $4.47 million. She said on a percentage basis, the 26 percent of maximum guarantees owed the airlines this year is the lowest in nine years (keeping in mind that gross max revenue guarantees have gone up in the time) compared to the next lowest payout of 54 percent in 2006-07.

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The strong fiscal performance also dropped the cost per passenger for the airline program to $15.44 compared to $42 the previous winter.

At the same time the fiscal performance of the airline program dropped last winter, the number of passengers arriving at YVRA during ski season rose 7.6 percent from 70,000 in 2013-14 to 75,320 in 2014-15 with the help of an additional 8,400 inbound seats.

Really, Fischer said, the positive numbers are the result of applying the strategy of matching additional capacity, or seats, to the days of the week and the days on the calendar when demand is highest.

Passengers pay higher fares on high demand days, but the revenue increase is about more than that. The airline program also reaped the benefit of higher revenues generated by passengers purchasing economy-plus seats, fees for checked bags and purchasing food and beverages.

In addition to looking into adding new cities of flight origin for the coming winter, Fischer said, the program has met with officials of United, American, Alaska and Delta Airlines to talk about growing the capacity of existing non-stops either by securing lager aircraft or, in some cases, increasing frequency.

Nine of 11 routes, including Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Newark, San Francisco, Washing/Dulles and Denver, have been loaded in travel computers for two months, Fischer said.

Delta's flights from Atlanta and Minneapolis are due to be loaded June 20.

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

If you go

What: Celebration of the upcoming June 25 reopening of the runway at Yampa Valley Regional Airport. Free hot dogs and hamburgers. Bring bicycles, inline skates and skateboards for a rare chance to ride down the two-mile-long newly resurfaced runway.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, June 14

Where: Yampa Valley Regional Airport, Routt County Road 51, Hayden

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