TEX Loses US Airways Service From Phoenix
by Gus Jarvis
Sep 21, 2011 | 2673 views | 3 3 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The TEX runway lights were lit up this spring for a demonstration of what it would look like if the airport attracts night flights.
The TEX runway lights were lit up this spring for a demonstration of what it would look like if the airport attracts night flights.
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TELLURIDE – At a time when attracting visitors is already an uphill battle in this uncertain economy, Telluride’s upcoming ski season may have taken a hard blow this week when the Telluride Montrose Regional Air Organization announced that US Airways will not provide its Phoenix-Telluride service for the 2011/2012 season.

The move by US Airways means that the Telluride Regional Airport will lose approximately 3,500 passenger seats during the winter season.

US Airway’s decision to pull the service comes after one of its air service contractors terminated an agreement to serve US Airway flights in the East, effectively forcing the carrier to shift aircraft that would have served the Telluride Regional Airport to another portion of the country. Those East Coast markets are tied to US Airways bond issues, which make these markets a priority for air service over Telluride.

TMRAO Executive Director Scott Stewart said on Wednesday that both the air organization and US Airways are disappointed to stop the service as it has done “particularly well” over the past couple of years.

“First and foremost, we need to try to regain the seats that will be lost with that service not happening ,” Stewart said. “The decision had nothing to do with Telluride, our relationship with US Airways or how our air service performed. The decision was solely based on an unexpected issue in some other US Airways markets that required the pulling of the Dash 8 aircraft to address that issue.”

Stewart emphasized that the decision was in no way related to TMRAO’s current fundraising effort and that the US Airways will remain a partner in bringing air service to TEX as soon as possible.

“In the long term, they are working with us,” he said. “They are presently working with operations on a couple of different aircraft types that might qualify for getting into Telluride. They are working with us. Right now, there is not going to be any service from Phoenix this winter but I believe there will be service in the long term.”

The effects of the US Airways decision could be painfully felt both in Telluride’s tourist-based winter economy and possibly at the airport, where a minimum number of commercial enplanements are needed to qualify for federal funding. Already, Stewart and the TMRAO are working to find ways to make up for the lost US Airways seats with less than 90 days before the start of the winter season. Stewart said the organization is actively pursuing service through a variety of avenues for this season and have found early success in gaining additional flights between Denver and Montrose from January to March, 2012. But those flights don't benefit TEX however. The new United flights, which should be in the booking system by Oct. 1, do replace about 75 percent of the seat loss to the region from the US Airways flight cancellation.

“Because we were able to find replacement service and seats by United to Montrose, we are about 1,000 seats down,” Stewart said. “We are working with Great Lakes and working to fill some of that loss into Telluride as well and we still have the possibility of another carrier out there that may offer some service. It’s a long shot but we are working on it.”

Furthermore, Stewart said, the US Airways decision is a reflection of the changing environment for the entire airline industry.

“The airline business is one of the most complicated businesses out there and therefore it’s not easy to get quick decisions on operating to Telluride or any airport,” he said. “Since typically 70 percent or more of the passengers on flights are connecting passengers, it’s critical that operators have ticketing and baggage and other arrangements in place at the hub airports to have the ability to gain a critical mass of passengers connecting from other flights.

“Additional hurdles include meeting the service, experience and cost expectations of our guests," Stewart explained. "It’s difficult enough to gain service at the Telluride Airport due to its extremely high elevation and how this affects commercial aircraft performance and it’s even more difficult with a short time window. We’re doing everything we can as quickly as we can to try to replace our service loss at the Telluride Airport.”

The Telluride Regional Airport receives $1 million in federal funding each year if the airport breaks the 10,000 enplanement mark. Last year, the airport did not reach the 10,000 mark, said Telluride Regional Airport Authority Chairman John Micetic, and the dropped service from Phoenix will make reaching that mark this year even harder.

“To us, [losing the US Airways flight] was a bombshell,” Micetic said on Wednesday. “If we stay positive, though, we are going to recover most of those potential seats that were lost. Our number one concern is what this will do to this community’s economy. Anytime you lose service, it hurts.”

While the loss is a “major concern,” Micetic went on to say that he feels confident the airport will reach 10,000 enplanements this year through Great Lakes.

The possibility that TEX may not see 10,000 enplanements comes after multi-million dollar capital improvement projects including a runway expansion that’s intended to make the airport safer and easier for commercial service. Micetic said losing federal funding because of declining enplanements would hold back future capital improvement projects.

“If we don’t get the federal money, it means we can’t spend money on the capital improvements we still need,” he said. “We have constantly tried to strengthen the commercial service into the airport and some of these project would have to be put on hold.”

Comments
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ResponsibleFreePress
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September 24, 2011
Hello Mr. FaceonMars-yes, this addiction to handouts infects our country like the plague.

Indeed, we levy a room tax to increase the cost to come to Telluride and then give the money to entities to increase tourism. Even a simpleton, and I am being generous here, can see that increasing prices to come to a resort decreases the number of visitors. But like all such slop people become addicted to the freebie and protect it to the end. But what works? REally works? Value. Direct line value that is easy to see. As an example, low prices, great skiing, reasonable prices for tourists! Utah!

The above argument also supports your premise that main street enhancements are yet another ignorance. Too much to ask that city government just keep to typical city government acts like running water, sewer systems, potholes? Yes, apparently inasmuch as we have VF tax, main street levies, the list is marvelous for its breadth of idiocy.

Cant we, as a people, provide a safety net for the truly unfortunate-single moms, working poor, older people who need help, and get off our addiction to handouts for everybody?

Yes, the Dash 8s are flying today to someplace that has figured out how to fill them up. We dont need a city manager to figure out how to do that we need businesses to price their products in a clear visible way that generates more volume.
FaceOnMars
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September 23, 2011
Maybe there is something to the fabled Telluride "curse" and old lore about not building permanent structures and what not around the area ... since it appears that karma might be biting back at all of the massive taxpayer funded time/energy (and diesel) to bring in night flights as an end run around the original intent of the agreement which allows the airport to exist/function in the first place.

And yes RFP, perhaps by not allowing the "powers that be" to manipulate the profile of the marketplace, they will have to adjust their pricing structure to suit demand as it organically manifests itself vs. tinkering with the playing field with taxpayer dollars and hand outs to accommodate their ideal marketing posture.

ResponsibleFreePress
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September 21, 2011
Yes, Adam's Smith's invisible hand is at work...do you think that it ultimately was the Dash 8's? No, ultimately it was that the Dash 8's were put to better use someplace else.

Is the real estate market recovering, if slowly? Yes. Why? Prices have collapsed/adjusted to their true market rate and people are once again saying, Yes, Telluride!

Following this simplistic analysis isnt it time we stop charging $400 per night for hotels and $100 per pass? Can't we see that it is our pricing schemes that throw us off? Or is it the beliefs of the flat earthers that ski pricing is not elastic?

Never in my life have I seen such stubbornness for misquided understandings of pricing schemes.

Ok, off to Telluride Sporting Goods to buy my kayak at full price! Gonna ignore that kayak season is over and kayaks are offered at lower prices throughout the state. Discounting is not in my vocabulary!

WOW!