Let’s not forget airlines’ importance

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Amid the fire and other stories dominating the area’s news this year, one issue hasn’t maintained much traction. That would be the ongoing need for Colorado Springs to cultivate its place in the airline transportation market.

We’ve had good news and bad during 2012 affecting air travel. On the bright side, Frontier Airlines designated Colorado Springs as a “focus city” and planned more nonstops beyond just Denver. Starting in February, with more announcements since, Frontier has developed flights to Orlando, San Diego, Portland, Seattle and Phoenix.

Also, United Airlines next week is adding a direct late-afternoon flight from Washington (Dulles), considered a major boost for military and defense contractors.

On the down side, Delta Airlines ended nonstop service to Minneapolis, a dependable local option for many years on Northwest Airlines before it merged with Delta in 2008. Minneapolis flights had continued under the Delta banner until a few months ago. Now they’re gone, taking away a vital alternative for the Upper Midwest and connecting to points afar.

Frontier’s plans seemed to make up for much of that pain. But some of Frontier’s flights were just for the summer months, and haven’t continued into the fall and winter. As of this week, there are nonstops to Phoenix, Orlando and San Diego, but that’s it.

Through August, Colorado Springs airport statistics were looking a little better than in 2011. Departing passengers in August rose 4.6 percent over a year earlier, from 75,965 to 79,457 — though without a 7,000-plus increase from Frontier alone, the bottom line would have been lower.

Through the first eight months of 2012, departures from Colorado Springs were down very slightly (less than 1 percent), with arrivals up about the same margin. Notably, United was down 8 percent in departures from 2011.

We’re concerned about those statistics for the final four months of this year. We’re also wondering about Frontier’s future, after the Denver Post last weekend described how the airline could be sold — which could mean reducing its presence in Denver (thus, surely, also Colorado Springs).

Something else bothers us. Many times in recent months, people inside our business community have said something similar to this: “I never fly out of the Springs anymore. Everyone in our company drives to Denver and goes out of there. It’s usually cheaper out of Denver, but that’s not the only reason.”

Perhaps it’s time for the city to revive a former mantra, asking local travelers to make a priority of flying out of Colorado Springs whenever possible. To make connections, you can still go to Dallas on American, Atlanta or Salt Lake City on Delta, and via United to Chicago, Houston, San Francisco or Los Angeles. There’s also the short hop to Denver with its endless options.

Colorado Springs is lucky to have a modern airport, favorable weather and easy access. As we build a more diverse local economy in years ahead, that airport should become a much more productive asset than it’s been.

But for now, we can’t afford to lose what we have.

One Response to Let’s not forget airlines’ importance

  1. Non-stop is important. I fly out of the Springs but am only one of a large company that does so. The others drive to Denver, and those that come to the Springs on company business fly into Denver and rent a car to drive down to the Springs. I have Layovers in Chicago, Houston (and sometimes even Denver). The lack of concern airlines have in getting you to your connecting airport on time, holding a flight if other fights are late or lack of care if you get “Stuck” somewhere is worth the drive to Denver just to avoid it. Nothing is more of a kick in the teeth than when you miss your connection because of the airline and are stuck on standby as a secondary thought not a priority. Furthermore the lack of the airlines ability to plan arrival and departure gates that are relatively close in connecting cities is a big turnoff. I will never forget my connection in Atlanta as we were pulling into the airport 30 min late (Due to the airline) when the flight attendant said your gate is probably at the far end of the airport, you can run to try to catch it, but check the monitors as you go because they change the gates often. I made it, the other guy who made it found out that his gate changed (not just one or 2 over, but to the other side of the airport) and now was stuck in the standby trap.
    The Standby trap in a connecting Airport is a lot of fun. The representative at the gate can’t help you. After being stuck in Houston trying to find a flight home the customer service lady at the gate tells me “sir I can’t help you can’t you see I’m busy?” (No one is at and no airplane to attend to) I was expected to be all right sleeping in the airport and taking a 10AM flight the next day! No offers of hotels or dinner after 21 hours of airplane issues and missed/cancelled flights. I went online and found a flight myself and had to have the customer service person actually search for my flight number (1 seat left).
    Non-stop flights may be difficult to finance. At least the flights to the major hubs allow us to have an airport, but it sure would be nice to see the airport and airlines target local industry. It would be nice to see them reach out to their customers to find out what their needs are. It would be nice to see some empathy for customers who choose to accept a layover and the risk of missing a connection to support local business. Last it would be nice if they would provide sort of “Customer Friendly” support when secondary flights are missed due to airline issues. As this is a major issue for people flying out of Colorado Springs you would think if you provided some sort f guarantees to the customers or some sort of comfort such as a guaranteed hotel if you miss your flight, higher priority to catch a later flight, or a policy in which they will find you the next available flight even if it is with a different carrier and eating the costs of the change. Maybe if the airlines were more sensitive to the multi leg traveler more people would give up the drive and security lines at Denver to support our local airport. Oh and I would be more than happy to meet you halfway COS if you are ever truly interested in fixing the problem.

    I fly out of the Springs because the last thing I want to do when I get home is drive another hour to get home. 15 min down the road and I’m there. I also like the short lines to get through security. But I am starting to think that Denver is the way to go to avoid the layover mishaps and lack of concern to get me home to my family.
    ~Frequent Flier

    JayMichael Neill
    November 16, 2012 at 7:59 pm