Passenger traffic dips 
slightly at GJ airport

No Allegiant flight to L.A. reason for decline; Montrose airport has record March

A United Airlines jet soars in front of Mount Garfield as it takes off on a recent trip from Grand Junction to Denver.

Commercial passenger traffic at Grand Junction Regional Airport slipped in the first quarter of the year compared to the same time last year, a drop attributed almost solely to Allegiant Airlines extending the suspension of its service to Los Angeles.

A total of 47,562 passengers boarded flights heading out of Grand Junction in January, February and March, a 4 percent decline from the 49,622 who flew out of the airport in the first three months of 2012.

The numbers come amid mixed predictions about how the airline industry will fare this year. The International Air Transport Association has projected the industry will generate $10.6 billion in profits in 2013, up from its earlier forecast of $8.4 billion. Meanwhile, Evergreen-based Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting and research firm, reported that the nation’s air transportation system likely will see a 1.5 to 2 percent drop in traffic this year.

“We kind of just held steady,” Amy Jordan, deputy director of administration, said of the airport’s first quarter.

Allegiant historically has put its twice-a-week flight from Grand Junction to Los Angeles on hiatus from late August until close to Thanksgiving. In 2012-13, however, the airline kept the flight grounded until April 18, meaning it missed out on revenue from Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break vacationers. Allegiant accounts for 300 seats flying into and out of the airport each week.

An Allegiant spokeswoman previous told The Daily Sentinel that a major reason why service to and from Grand Junction was suspended longer is Allegiant encountered a shortage of gate space at Los Angeles International Airport.

Three of the five carriers that fly out of Grand Junction Regional Airport saw slight to moderate boosts in traffic in the first quarter.

The largest, Denver- and Houston-bound United, was nearly flat in its growth, with an increase of 47 passengers to 18,533.

U.S. Airways and its Phoenix flight ranked second with 10,073 passengers, a 1.1 percent bump compared to 2012.

American Eagle and its Dallas flight ranked third with 7,134, a 7.6 percent increase. Jordan said American Eagle will reinstate a third daily flight this summer. The airline typically pulls back to two flights a day each fall.

Delta and its Salt Lake City flight ranked fourth in boardings with 5,964, while Allegiant, which flies to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, ranked fifth with 3,816. Those counts dropped 2.8 percent and 45 percent, respectively, compared to the first quarter of 2012.

Rental car companies pulled in more than $977,000 in revenue in the first two months of the year, a 5.8 percent increase compared to last year. Figures from March weren’t available yet.

About 2.5 million pounds of freight came into the airport in the first quarter, about 4.7 percent less than the same time last year. The 1.2 million pounds of freight shipped out was 3.2 percent less than last year.

Airport officials expect to begin construction this summer on a new administration building, the first step toward erecting a new terminal. The new administration building will take about nine months to complete.

Meanwhile, another Western Slope airport recorded its best month in its history in March.

A total of 32,061 passengers departed and arrived at Montrose Regional Airport last month. Airport officials there said roughly 7,500 more passengers flew into and out of Montrose in the first quarter than the first three months of last year.

The airport in March caters primarily to skiers and other winter recreationists, and last fall it added twice-weekly Allegiant flights to and from Oakland International and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway airports. The Telluride Montrose Regional Air Organization, Telluride Ski Resort, Mountain Village and the cities of Montrose and Telluride spent thousands of dollars to help bring in the new service.

“This is a significant accomplishment for Montrose County, especially during a time when regional airports are experiencing declines in service,” Lloyd Arnold, Montrose County director of aviation, said in a statement about the airport’s record month.

The airport this year will install a backup generator for the airport’s primary runway, taxiway lighting and an airport TV network inside the terminal.


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