Saturday, January 02, 2016

Letter: Aspen-Pitkin County Airport/Sardy Field (KASE) not ready for prime time

Once again, visitors to Aspen have learned that the city’s airport is not ready for prime time (“Aspen travelers wait, wait and wait,” Dec. 29, The Aspen Times).

Aspen’s tourist business would do better if the town admitted that its airport was inadequate and agreed that commercial traffic should go to the Eagle County Airport in Gypsum. Everyone should agree to call it the Aspen Eagle Vail Airport. Aspen Eagle Vail has the capacity to receive and dispatch large airplanes such as Boeing 757s, 737s and the Airbus 320. It can even accommodate larger planes. As a result the major airlines fly to Aspen Eagle Vail. We flew to Atlanta on Monday on a Delta Boeing 757.

Delta cannot land its 757s at Aspen, nor can Delta land its MD80s or Boeing 737s at the Aspen airport. For this reason, Delta does not fly to Aspen. Neither does United or American Airlines fly to Aspen. While Eagle Vail is served by all three airlines, Aspen is served by SkyWest and Republic. SkyWest and Republic are regional airlines with whom the trunk lines contract to fly to smaller airports and cities.

The regional airlines are different from the major carriers. They operate smaller planes. They pay their employees less. They are less reliable. They pay their pilots less and they all have shortages of qualified pilots. SkyWest is not United Airlines. Republic is not United Airlines. SkyWest is not Delta. The regional serving American is not American.

Rick Carroll erred when he referred to Delta or United in his Dec. 29 piece. The correct reference should be to SkyWest operating as a contractor to Delta.

This difference is important. Regional carriers provide the sort of service one expects to find in a third-world country. Flights leave when they leave. Days are lost in transit. That is all one should expect if one flies from Aspen.

Aspen once had the opportunity to be served by the major carriers. However, the residents refused to allow large jets such as the Boeing 737 land. The town made its choice. As a result, it is stuck with third-world service.

It is time that commercial service shifts to Eagle Vail.

Philip Verleger


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