Local airport sets passenger boarding record in 2011

Departures up for 6th consecutive year

The Durango-La Plata County Airport saw 175,019 passengers leave Durango by air in 2011, up from 165,581 in 2010, a 5.7 percent increase. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald file

The Durango-La Plata County Airport saw 175,019 passengers leave Durango by air in 2011, up from 165,581 in 2010, a 5.7 percent increase.

Durango-La Plata County Airport for the sixth consecutive year in 2011 recorded an increase in commercial airline boardings.

The airport saw 175,019 passengers leave Durango by air, up 5.7 percent from 165,581 in 2010, Ron Dent, the airport’s director of aviation, said.

The inauguration by American Eagle on June 9 of a daily round-trip flight between Durango and Dallas-Ft. Worth was a major contributor to the increase, Dent said.

Dent said the increased boardings show Durango is becoming the regional airport of the Four Corners.

“The increased traffic is allowing the airport to improve the customer experience of flying to and from Durango,” he said. “All commercial airlines in Durango are now flying jet aircraft exclusively.”

Larger aircraft aren’t the only improvement, Dent said. Security screening is being upgraded to allow faster and more-efficient service.

“Our customers can also look forward to new self-service airline kiosks to be installed his year,” Dent said. “This will help speed the customer through the check-in process.”

The first week of the year saw one carrier introduce a larger aircraft on its Durango-to-Denver route.

Frontier Airlines, which began service between the two cities in 2008, replaced its 74-passenger Bombardier Q400 turboprops with 100-passenger Embraer E-190 jets on those flights.

“We reduced our flying from Denver from two round trips to one per day,” Frontier spokesman Peter Kowalchuk wrote in an email. “The E-190 is a higher-capacity aircraft and more suited to handle increased passenger loads.”

The single, daily round trip will remain in effect until April 15, when the second round trip will be reinstated, Kowalchuk said.

“The E-190 is a great aircraft,” Dent said. “It looks like a Boeing 737 that was left in the dryer too long.”

Passengers boarding after 10 a.m. receive the airline’s trademark chocolate-chip cookie, he said.

The loss of the Frontier flight is only for a time, he said. In addition to restoring the second flight, Frontier is in discussions with the airport about investing in self-service kiosks.

Durango is connected by air to Dallas-Ft. Worth by American Eagle, to Phoenix by U.S. Airways and to Denver by Frontier and United Express.

daler@durangoherald.com

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