Friday, January 15, 2016

Steamboat officials approve contract for summer air service from Dallas on American Airlines: Dallas could replace summer Houston flight

Steamboat airline program managers are close to signing a contract with American Airlines for daily summer 2016 flights to Yampa Valley Regional Airport from Dallas, Texas. Details have not been released. Presumably, that service will be on a smaller aircraft than this American flight that arrived from Dallas last month.

Steamboat Springs — The Yampa Valley is close to securing direct summer flights from Dallas on American Airlines for 2016, but the prospects for a third year of daily summer flights from Houston are under a ground hold.

#The board of the Local Marketing District emerged from a 45-minute executive session Friday morning and without ruling out renewal of Houston flights, voted unanimously to authorize Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. officials to finalize a contract proposed by American for the Dallas service.

Details of the direct flights between Dallas and Yampa Valley Regional Airport — schedules, aircraft and start/finish dates — are being withheld until the contract is inked. The role of the LMD board is to advise the Steamboat Springs City Council on securing commercial airline service funded with public dollars. Ski Corp. officials negotiate the terms for summer services, as they do with ski season flights, when funding is shared among lodging taxes, general sales tax and Ski Corp.

In related news Friday, Ski Corp. Airline Director Janet Fischer reported that, in anticipation of Republic Airlines’ April 1 exit as a United Express Carrier from Denver International Airport, United will begin transitioning in March to using SkyWest Airlines operating small jets on the YVRA to DIA route.

Currently, the SkyWest aircraft show up on two of three daily flights operating between YVRA and DIA through ski season. Fischer added that flights currently loaded into computers indicate SkyWest will serve YVRA through November using either 50- or 70-passenger jets in place of the turboprops Republic has flown here.

Houston still under discussion

Friday’s vote does not take the possibility of renewing the Houston flight off the table, LMD board members said Friday, but it’s clear United’s proposed length of the summer service was a sticking point.

“We’re looking at two options for contracting for a summer flight,” Fischer told the LMD board in open session, “2016 would be the third summer to look at Houston on United. It’s the same (50-passenger) aircraft, but they are proposing a reduced season.”

Asked by LMD Board President Chuck Porter to clarify if the Houston flight would operate fewer days over the entire length of the summer, Fischer replied: “It would be daily, but they want to shorten the season pretty significantly.”

Bob Milne, the unanimous choice to replace Porter as LMD board chairman after the latter announced his plans to step down from that role Friday, said Ski Corp. officials will continue to explore the possibility of bringing back the Houston flight, as well as other opportunities.

Shift from Republic to SkyWest on Denver route

Fischer said that, preliminarily, it looks as though YVRA will continue to see jet service on the Denver route beyond ski season this spring, with one flight per day on the 50-passenger CRJ from April 5 to June 5.

“Then, all through November, it’s two per day,” she said. “I think the reliability (of service) will show some big improvements because of the reliability of the operator. It’s a smaller plane than we had last summer with the (turboprop) Q400, which was either 71 or 74 passengers. It’s encouraging that there are two flights loaded September through November — that’s 100 seats daily versus (about) 70.”

In 2015, St. George, Utah-based Sky-West was actively phasing out some of it 50-passenger jets to make way for larger 76-passenger Bombardier CRJ-900 and Embraer E175 jets, which can accommodate multiple classes of passenger seating.


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