Delta will return to Aspen this winter with daily flights to and from Atlanta, and a Saturday-only service to Minneapolis-St. Paul, adding a third carrier and injecting more competition into the local airline market.
Delta, which flew to Aspen from Atlanta and Salt Lake City from 2006 to 2010, was enticed to return due in part to the longer airport runway, according to officials, as well as an incentive package of cash and marketing support. The total value of that package was unknown Wednesday. It includes contributions from the city of Aspen, Snowmass Village and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, as well as the Aspen Skiing Co. The funds from the public entities will be disclosed in the coming weeks when the appropriations are voted on in public, but officials declined to specify the amounts prior to that.
Frontier Airlines ended its regular service between Denver and Aspen in April 2012, resulting in 20 percent fewer seats coming into Sardy Field in the high seasons. While the additional flights from Delta don’t make that up entirely, it still represents added supply.
The direct flights to Atlanta, one of the world’s busiest airports, give travelers in the southern U.S., the East Coast and Latin America more options for flying to Aspen.
With winter service in full swing, there will be 28 flights a day out of Aspen on the busiest days serving eight airports, SkiCo Vice President David Perry said.
Delta “was ready to come back,” Perry said.
Mike Boyd, an Evergreen-based aviation consultant, said getting Delta back into the Aspen market was a “coup” for local tourism boosters.
“It’s tough in this environment to get airlines to add anything,” Boyd said. “You have to have some pretty compelling data to show the airlines that it’s worthwhile.”
The new service will be operated by Delta connection carrier SkyWest Airlines, using a 65-seat CRJ-700 that includes a first-class cabin.
Delta joins United and American airlines with service to Sardy Field. American flies to Dallas and Los Angeles, while United flies to Denver, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. During the off-season, only United flights to Denver are available, although the airline is extending its Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco flights through September this year.
A round-trip flight from Atlanta on Dec. 22-28 was available for $817 on the Delta.com website Wednesday. The price dropped to $435 for a trip from Jan. 3-6.
Wednesday’s announcement said Delta’s flights will run through the end of March. Airline spokesman Anthony Black said Delta will watch the market this winter to decide if it will continue flying to Aspen in the summer.
Local public entities gave American Airlines a one-time incentive of $150,000 cash and $275,000 in marketing support to lure the carrier here in 2011. Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said the package Delta is being offered is not out of line with those numbers, although he declined to go into specifics until the dollars are officially allocated.