Third quarter airline travel up 4 percent

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Cole Baker, second from right, of Grand Junction grabs his luggage from the baggage carousel after flying into Grand Junction Regional Airport to spend Thanksgiving with his sister Amy Gammill, right, and the rest of his family Wednesday. Baker said this is his first time coming home since he left to work in Pennsylvania for a year.

Passenger boardings at Grand Junction Regional Airport inched up 4 percent through the third quarter compared to the same period last year, even as commercial traffic dipped in September.

A total of 166,890 passengers had flown out of the airport through Sept. 30, compared to 160,561 last year, according to airport data.

The bump in boardings could be attributed to American Eagle’s decision to add a third daily flight from Grand Junction to Dallas in February and the May launch of Continental Airlines’ twice-daily service to Houston.

“The Continental service has really done well,” airport Manager Rex Tippetts said, noting the drawback, though, is the direct service has pulled passengers from United’s flight to Denver.

After eight straight months of year-over-year increases in enplanements, the airport had two straight months of declines compared with the same time last year. Passenger boardings in August were down a notch from 19,921 last year to 19,546 this year. They dropped further in September, down 4.5 percent from 20,457 last year to 19,552 this year.

Part of the drop is due to Allegiant Airlines suspending service from Grand Junction to Los Angeles between Aug. 29 and Nov. 9. The discount airline, which also offers flights from Grand Junction to Las Vegas, plans a second hiatus between Nov. 28 and Dec. 14.

Tippetts said he anticipates Allegiant will employ a similar on-again, off-again schedule next year for its Grand Junction-Los Angeles flight.

“We’re kind of expecting that L.A.w service to come and go,” he said. “It’s shown to be a lot more seasonal than Las Vegas.”

The number of Allegiant passengers leaving Grand Junction dropped from 2,431 in September 2010 to 1,188 in September of this year.

Tippetts said he expects November and December enplanements to be at or above last year’s levels.

Four of the six passenger carriers experienced a decline in traffic in September compared with September 2010.

United Airlines continues to lead the way with 7,721 passengers, although that was down 12 percent from 8,759 last September.

U.S. Airways and its Phoenix flight ranked second with 2,752, up from 2,384 last year. Continental ranked third with 2,645 passengers.

American Eagle ranked fourth with 2,487 passengers, down from 2,610 last September. Delta was fifth with 2,382 passengers, down from 4,273 passengers last year. Allegiant, which offered no service to Los Angeles in September, ranked sixth.

The airport finished 2010 with 216,912 boardings, nearly a 5 percent drop compared with 2009 but a 2 percent increase over 2008.


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