Southwest expands service between Hayden, Denver beyond ski season

Passengers step off of a Southwest Airline flight 3037 from Denver Wednesday morning at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Southwest Airlines has extended service between Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden and Denver International Airport through June 5, adding flights five days a week and providing more options to fly into Hayden when it isn’t peak ski season.

After starting service to the airport at the start of the ski season, demand has been strong enough for Southwest to warrant extending service, according to Alyssa Foster, spokesperson for the airline.

“We always are monitoring trends, and we make adjustments as necessary, but with the positive demand that we have seen, we were able to make that decision,” Foster said.

From April 6 to June 5, Southwest will offer one flight every day of the week, minus Tuesday and Wednesday, that leaves Denver at 2:45 p.m. and arrives in Hayden an hour later. Foster said it is possible flights could be further expanded, but that will depend on how strong the demand is for these new flights.

“I think we’ll just have to continue monitoring those trends, but if they continue to be positive, and we continue to see the demand there, then we can make those adjustments as necessary,” Foster said.

Southwest has added several destinations to its lineup in the last year, including new service to Bozeman, Montana, and Destin/Fort Walton, Florida, which starts in May. Service between Denver and Montrose Regional Airport near Telluride will also expand to five flights a week, with a similar schedule as Hayden.

“It is great, not just for the airport but for everybody,” Airport Director Kevin Booth said. “Any time we can increase service levels, that equates to additional revenue for the airport and obviously all these people that are traveling here brings revenue for the community.”

Most of the mainline flights to the Yampa Valley phase out around the end of March or early April, as the ski season winds down, typically leaving just United Airlines as the sole carrier still flying daily in the offseason. That flight is usually only on a 50-seat airplane as well, Booth said, while Southwest flies a larger, 143-seat Boeing 737.

United is also adding more flights this summer, with its schedule including another flight on a 160-seat airplane that starts in May and run through Labor Day.

“That is new for us. We have never seen what we call mainline service from Denver in the offseason,” Booth said. “In May, at least for a while, we will have two mainlines going to Denver every day, one on United and one on Southwest.”

Booth said he believes the airlines are expanding service to places like Steamboat now because these destinations are where people have shown the willingness to travel to during the pandemic, and business-related travel has not yet rebounded.

“The airlines are putting their equipment and crews where there is a demand, and there’s definitely a demand. We have proven that through the winter season,” Booth said. “People want to come up to places like Steamboat and be outside where they can enjoy the out of doors and feel safe about traveling.”

More flights in the summer could also make flying into Denver more attractive than driving as more competition could potentially lower fares. Booth said there would certainly be more availability, so it will be interesting what affect will be on ticket prices.

The airline itself is also trying to advertise the area hoping to drum up even more demand for flights to Hayden.

Southwest worked with Steamboat Resort to create destination-based videos, trying to share locations that visitors should check out while in Steamboat. The airline is sharing these destination videos on its social media channels, but will also be part of in-flight entertainment options, allowing people to get a preview of the area before they land.

“If they are traveling to Steamboat Springs, they can get some inspiration from the seat and if they are traveling to another destination, they can catch that one or the other videos that we have to get some inspiration for their next trip,” Foster said.

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