The number of passenger flying out of Durango-La Plata County Airport surged 35 percent in March, defying the recessionary economy.
The huge growth came after more modest gains in the two previous months. January saw an 8 percent rise and February a 12 percent increase.
"We are a bit surprised at the strong growth here considering the national economy," said Ron Dent, the airport's director of aviation, in a news release. "Many airports are experiencing a reduction in airline capacity."
For the year, enplanements are up 18.5 percent.
"This is a very good year so far," Dent said.
Frontier Airlines began flying out of Durango in April 2008. The carrier's entry drove ticket prices down and gave business travelers another option to get to Denver. Enplanements for 2008 rose 18 percent from 2007, to 136,665.
May will be the first month Frontier will have comparable figures from the previous year.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to sustain this," Dent said.
Airport officials credited the increase to expansion of Denver service on United and Frontier airlines, lower fares and an extensive Four Corners marketing campaign centered on flydurango.com.
United Airlines has increased seat capacity from Durango by introducing the 70-seat Bombardier Regional Jet on some flights, in addition to three daily flights to Denver offered by Frontier Airlines, Dent said.
Nationally, enplanements fell from 53.5 million in December 2007 to 50.4 million in December 2008, the most recent month available from the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Low fuel prices have provided some cushion for airlines. Last year, oil peaked at $147 per barrel. More recently, after a brief dip into the $30 range, oil prices have again risen above $50.
"When it gets above $60, $70 a barrel, that's going to have a huge impact on the airlines' profitability," Dent said.
Durango-La Plata County Airport now offers 600 seats daily to Denver and 111 seats to Phoenix. Delta Airlines-Skywest pulled out of a Durango to Salt Lake City route in September.