GJ flights fewer but fuller in 2010

Passengers await help at a ticket counter at Grand Junction Regional Airport.



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Passengers await help at a ticket counter at Grand Junction Regional Airport.

Grand Junction Regional Airport served 11,000 fewer passengers in 2010 compared to the previous year. There were fewer flights last year than in 2009, but the planes were fuller.

The airport lost all Frontier-operated flights to Denver in September 2009, and American Eagle dropped one of three daily flights to Dallas around the same time. Frontier flew 25,764 people between Grand Junction and Denver in 2009 and American Eagle flew 34,472 people between Grand Junction and Dallas. In 2010, American Eagle had 30,760 passengers on the two remaining daily routes.

With the morning and afternoon flights filling fast, American decided to resume the third, midday flight on Thursday, according to Grand Junction Regional Airport Director of Aviation Rex Tippetts.

Tippetts said the new Dallas flight and two new daily flights to Houston on United-Continental that will start in the first week of May should spur passenger volumes to a healthy level this year.

“With Continental bringing another 100 seats a day and American adding 50 seats a day, that’s plenty of growth for now,” he said.

Airport Authority board member Tom LaCroix said the Texas flights aren’t all about the oil and gas industry, and they may attract fliers who have family in the state or who want to take advantage of the many connecting flights at those airports.

LaCroix added the airport authority’s wish list would eventually include direct flights to Chicago and Seattle, plus another airline connection to Los Angeles, but he doesn’t envision those destinations arriving this year.

“In order to get that, we have to prove (those flights would be) profitable all the way,” LaCroix said. “It has to make money at all the hubs.”

Helped in part by being the sole airline offering flights between Grand Junction and Denver after mid-September 2009, United set a record in 2010 with 90,335 passengers on its flights in and out of Grand Junction Regional Airport. That’s a 14 percent increase from 2009.

U.S. Airways also experienced a 14 percent increase in passengers, ushering 28,888 fliers between Grand Junction and Phoenix in 2010.

Allegiant experienced a 12 percent jump in flights between Grand Junction and its destinations of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, while Delta had a slightly more than 1 percent increase in passenger totals on its flights between Grand Junction and Salt Lake City.



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