Airport chief says reliability of flight schedule from Denver was subpar in October

A United Express Q400 turboprop operated by Republic Airlines for United Express takes off from Yampa Valley Regional Airport on Monday afternoon. Airport officials said the flight schedule has not been reliable since Republic temporarily became the sole operator servicing the route between Hayden and Denver. SkyWest is expected to return and join Republic flying for United Express on the Hayden/Denver route.

— The midday United Express flight from Denver arrived on time at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden on Monday, but all too often this month that has been a 50/50 proposition, and airport officials are concerned.

“I would say we’ve had more flights (in October) that were late or had other problems than not,” YVRA Manager Dave Ruppel said Monday. “It can’t continue the way it’s going right now. It’s frustrating, but we will get this fixed and we want to make sure that passengers realize that this is an aberration.”

Ruppel said the late flights and flights that just didn’t operate at all have their roots in September, when United Express began mixing longstanding regional jet service operated by SkyWest Airlines with service on 73-passenger Bombardier Q400 turboprops operated by Indianapolis-based Republic Airlines. Schedule reliability became more acute this month when service was shifted entirely to Republic with two flights a day arriving on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and three flights the rest of the week.

On more than one occasion, both daily flights have been canceled, Ruppel said. Some passengers have taken taxi service to Denver, some have driven themselves, and others have postponed their travels until the next day.

Ruppel said the problem is not with the aircraft Republic is flying, but with difficulties assembling crews or other issues that haven’t been specifically reported.

He said airport and United Express officials have been engaged in talks for two weeks now without reaching any conclusions.

“I think the passenger cabin is more comfortable and less cramped than on the CRJ7” jet flown by SkyWest, Ruppel said. “The Q400 is much more economical. It’s a good aircraft for this type of service.”

The plane represents a new generation of fast turboprops with vibration dampening to reduce the noise that passengers experience.

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. spokesman Mike Lane wrote in an email Monday that ski area officials learned in late August that the Q400s would be part of the picture at YVRA this winter.

A search of ski season flights in and out of YVRA to Denver on United Express reflects that those flights will be covered by a mix of SkyWest Airlines' CRJ7s and Republic Airlines' Q400s.

“It looks right now like winter will be bout 50/50 SkyWest (and) Republic,” Lane wrote. “We have four daily (Denver/Hayden) flights during ski season and we contract one of those. Our contracted flight is under contract to fly as a CR7 and will remain so. We stated our preference to maintain the non-contracted Hayden flights with SkyWest CR7 service at the time we first learned about this, and we continue to state our preference for the jets. It is my understanding that many of the mountain airports and regional United Express routes have been switched to the Q.”

Republic Airways is the parent company of Denver-based Frontier Airlines after buying it out of bankruptcy protection, as well as of Republic Airlines. It’s ironic that Frontier flew the Q400 to YRVA in 2008-09 under its Lynx commuter subsidiary until Republic acquired Frontier and announced in February 2010 that it would phase out the Q400s by September. Lynx had 11 Q400s.

There appears to have been a change in outlook at Republic. It announced a tentative deal in May, calling for it to operate a fleet of 32 Q400s on behalf of United Express.

Lane said the ski area has a lengthy track record of working with United to improve air service here.

“United is a great partner with Steamboat and we continue to work with them on providing convenient service for guests into Ski Town USA this winter,” he wrote. “Fleet and schedules for non-contracted air service are managed by the airline and may fluctuate depending upon overall needs.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

Community comments

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(walt jones) natvsbs says...

As a corporate pilot and from experience the Q400 are far more prone to iceing conditions and ability to manuever in mountainous terrain when in weather versus a CRJ. Yes the Q400 is more cost efficient to operate but I will venture to say that coming winter time more Republic flights will delay or cancel arrival into HDN than SkyWest will and from friends who are airline pilots it's NOT finding crews for the flight it's maint. and a not enough seats sold for justifying cost.

Posted 30 October 2012, 7:46 a.m. Suggest removal

(John St Pierre) fishcreek says...

As I stated several months ago on the Hayden situation... One should be watching Eagle/Vail airport... United tested landing a 777 there this summer... United is going where the money and traffic is, Hayden is small side show for them....suspect it will not be too long before they pull out....

Posted 30 October 2012, 9:20 a.m. Suggest removal

(Dan Hill) steamboatlion says...

Our air program continues to fly. Like a rock.

The Q400 is a much more comfortable plane than the old 37 seat Dash 8-200's but it's a 70 seater. So it give us nothing in terms of service frequency vs the CRJs (same number of seats to sell) and more weather delays than the CRJs. Plus we know the operator makes a big difference (remember Mesa?).

For location neutral workers like me there's only one solution. Plan to drive to Denver. Every time. But we don't matter. It's not like we spend our good incomes in Steamboat all year round or anything.

If this valley is to have an economic future we need reliable, frequent, year round air service. The only cost effective way I can see to achieve that is to focus any revenue guarantees on the Denver service. Would the direct flights really matter if we had say a CRJ flight from Denver every hour in the winter?

We're spreading the butter thinner and thinner on the toast trying to maintain the direct winter flights. Time to stop doubling down on a losing bet.

Posted 30 October 2012, 9:26 a.m. Suggest removal

(John St Pierre) fishcreek says...

I think United has already decided Eagle.. with its central point for Summit & Vail (we're not that far)..... bigger runway and better accessibility, more flights.... Hayden is becoming a sideshow... suspect that soon we'll see United take them into Eagle and then do a shuttle bus situaiton to here.....

Posted 30 October 2012, 10:37 a.m. Suggest removal

(Brian Kotowski) Sep says...

Eagle (EGE) completed its runway extension in 2009, expanding it to 9,000 feet. Hayden's runway is 10,000 feet. The pilots I know LOATHE flying in & out of EGE. The History Channel recently put EGE on its top 10 list of Most Extreme Airports because of the altitude, weather, a wicked approach, and effed up departure procedures. The complete list:

01 - Tenzing-Hillary Airport (LUA), aka Lukla Airport, Lukla, Nepal
02 - Toncontín International Airport (TGU), Tegucigalpa, Honduras
03 - Gibraltar Airport (GIB) aka North Front Airport, Gibraltar
04 - Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles
05 - Gustaf III Airport (SBH), aka St. Jean Airport, Saint Jean, Saint Barthélemy (Saint Barts)
06 - Kai Tak Airport (HKG), Hong Kong
07 - Courchevel Airport (CVF), Courchevel, France
08 - Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), aka Vail/Eagle Airport, Gypsum, Colorado
09 - Madeira Airport (FNC), Funchal, Madeira, Portuguese Azores
10 - San Diego International Airport (SAN) - aka Lindbergh Field, San Diego, CA

Posted 30 October 2012, 11:32 a.m. Suggest removal

(Steve Lewis) lewi says...

The recent open house by the LMD, which runs the air program, entertained a very good comment from the audience - that subsidy to the regionals of Denver, Salt Lake City, etc, would be far cheaper than subsidy to the long haul carriers to Atlanta and Newark. It would also solidify year round regional service that local business travelers obviously rely on.

Taking the opposite approach, our current LMD subsidies of long haul carriers undermine these regional carriers. As this article suggests, Steamboat Springs is making the wrong choices because we have an air program structured solely to benefit skiers.

Posted 31 October 2012, 7:34 p.m. Suggest removal

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