The Colorado Springs Airport is doing just fine, thank you. However, the reality is that if area residents don’t fly out of Colorado Springs, and instead fly out of Denver International Airport, things could change.
That message was emphasized when airport experts, the airport manager, and appointed airport officials addressed those attending a Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce First Fridays breakfast.
Among those speaking was Mike Boyd, an independent airport consultant headquartered in Englewood. While his comments were at times witty and humorous, the key message was “use it, or lose it.”
“Use it, or lose it. But lose it and people will say ‘why would I want to go there,’” Boyd said. He likened parking at DIA’s long-term parking to parking in Oklahoma, and wondered why area residents are willing to put up with the drive, distant parking, and the train and other assorted jostlings.
“Airlines are coming here because there is business here,” Boyd said. “They’re not coming here because they didn’t have a place to put an airline.”
DIA opened, just four months after the new Colorado Springs airport, to runway and baggage handling problems. The Colorado Springs Airport soon took off with the addition of upstart airline Western Pacific. After record numbers of passengers moved through the city’s airport, Western Pacific took a nosedive and eventually went out of business.
That was a big blow, and since then the Colorado Springs airport has been rebuilding. Only a few of the 125 metropolitan airports surveyed showed increases in emplanements, Boyd said.
The Colorado Springs Airport is one of the leaders in the recovery of airline travel since terrorists attacked the United States last September, said airport manager Gary W. Green. Still, some major airports report they’re still down as much as 12 percent or more.
“The good news is that we’re down 2 ½ percent,” Green said. “We are one of the leaders in the industry as far as recovery.”
The airport cleared about $750,000 in its last fiscal year, Green said. Air cargo is up and so are fuel sales, he said.
Still, some of the recent startup airlines are struggling, Green said.
Allegiant Airlines is the newest independent, with daily trips to Las Vegas. Its fare to Las Vegas is one of the best around. “They’re hurting right now, carrying real light loads,” Green said.
Vanguard Airlines is the company that could potentially do more for the airport than anyone could, Green said, despite its current financial difficulties.
Still, Vanguard reported a 40 percent increase in traffic for May compared to a year ago.
Bob Cunningham, chair of the Airport Commission, said area residents should think first about flying out of Colorado Springs. One benefit, he said jokingly, is one could “sleep later.”
Depending on how one drives to DIA, you could encounter three road tolls, then there is parking. Cunningham said it is possible to park in short term parking at the Colorado Springs Airport for 10 days for half what it costs to park in long-term parking at DIA.
“Fly fast” is one of the mottos the airport is using in a new marketing plan, and Cunningham said to him flying is all about time. Urging people to fly out of Colorado Springs, Cunningham said people should consider how long it takes to get to DIA, and that there are no driving hassles.
“The airlines need to know we are going to use the airport,” Cunningham said.
The quality of a community may be defined by its airport, said Terry Sullivan, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We have a first class operation here,” Sullivan said. “We must let people know.”
“Use it or lose it, it’s as simple as that,” Sullivan echoed. “If you don’t use this airport, we won’t have the air service we all strive to have.”