Air service weathers economy

Passengers wait to board flights this week at Grand Junction Regional Airport, where boardings year to year have decreased only slightly since 2011. “It’s good news with the economy we have right now,” said Amy Jordan, interim director of aviation. “The new up is flat.”

Commercial passenger traffic at Grand Junction Regional Airport essentially held steady for the third year in a row in 2013, something of a victory for airport executives who were once focused on adding flights and destinations but are now doing their best to maintain existing service.

A total of 217,684 passengers flew out of the airport last year, about 2,000 fewer than in 2012. That’s 90,000 more people than who boarded planes 10 years ago but the lowest total since 2008.

“Honestly, it’s good news with the economy we have right now. We are very happy to just maintain the service that we have, and the enplanement levels that we have,” said Amy Jordan, interim director of aviation. “The new up is flat.” 

Three of the five passenger carriers experienced a decline in traffic in 2013 compared with 2012.

United Airlines remains the dominant carrier at the airport, with multiple daily flights to Denver and Houston. But its numbers continue to slip. It flew 84,287 passengers last year, a 2.6 percent drop from 2012.

US Airways and its Phoenix flight ranked second with 42,073. Although just 136 passengers more than 2012, it marked another year of growth at the airport for the Tucson, Ariz.-headquartered company, which recently merged with American Airlines. US Airways passenger numbers at Grand Junction Regional Airport jumped 26 percent in 2012 and 15 percent in 2011.

Liz Landau, a US Airways spokeswoman, said the airline has added capacity in recent years by upgrading its aircraft from a capacity of 37 passengers, to 50 passengers, to now as many as 79 seats. She said Phoenix stands out as a connecting hub to leisure destinations like Mexico, Hawaii and South America.

“We are always evaluating the markets we serve and making sure they make sense,” Landau said. “Certainly we want to give a service to our customers that’s important to them.”

American Eagle and its Dallas flight ranked third in boardings with 33,852, a 6 percent boost over 2012. Delta and its Salt Lake City flight ranked fourth with 29,345, a 2.5 percent decline compared with 2012.

Allegiant, which flies to Las Vegas and seasonally to Los Angeles, ranked fifth with 20,126, a 15 percent drop compared with 2012.

One airline that continues to experience significant growth is Denver Air Connection, a private air charter company that flies to Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield and Centennial Airport south of Denver. The company caters largely to business travelers.

A total of 6,277 people booked flights out of Grand Junction with the Denver Air Connection in 2013, a 22 percent increase over 2012.

Rental car companies pulled in a little more than $6.8 million in revenue through November, about 3 percent less than the same time period in 2011. December figures aren’t yet available.

About 9.4 million pounds of freight came into the airport last year, which was 6.3 percent less than 2012. The 4.3 million pounds of freight that left the airport was off about 4.5 percent from two years ago.

Travelers should see new construction continue at the airport this year, even as a federal fraud investigation hangs over the facility and administration.

The future of a new administrative building under construction has been clouded by the investigation and by the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority’s recent decision to change the designation of certain floorspaces within the building and the building as a whole. Officials hope to continue construction, which has already cost the airport more than $2 million, and re-obtain federal funding for the project. The Airport Authority relinquished previously secured federal grants for what was originally described to the FAA as a terminal building.


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