The Durango–La Plata County Airport (DRO) strives for transparency when providing the public with information about airline performance, including cancellations and delays. This is why we would like to add context to the Durango Herald’s recent coverage of the July airline activity report. The picture is more positive than the headline might lead one to believe.
The Durango Herald accurately reported the content of the July report, including that DRO experienced its busiest month of all time. However, one needs to look deeper into the numbers to get a clearer picture of the airport’s activity, performance and value as both a service and economic engine to our Four Corners region.
When examining the raw numbers, readers should understand that air service remains steady at DRO and flight reliability is consistent with that of many airports across the country.
As the article stated, the airlines serving DRO have had 2,457 scheduled departures through July, with 115 cancellations. While it’s true that 4.7 percent of flights have been canceled this year, 95.3 percent were not. In fact, the airlines serving DRO have an on-time departure rate of 78.08 percent through June, essentially even with the nationwide rate of 78.44 percent.
2019 has been a challenging year for the aviation system nationwide. According to United States Department of Transportation statistics, flight cancellations at airports across the country are up 22 percent this year. Most cancellations have been due to unusually rough weather, but factors such as mechanical issues and flight crew member shortages also play a role in causing disruption at the nation’s airports. In nearly every case, airlines’ decisions to cancel flights are based upon passenger safety.
The three hub airports that serve as connecting points for nearly every flight into and out of DRO are also experiencing significant increases in flight cancellations. At Denver International Airport, the 2019 cancellation rate (2.73 percent) is up a staggering 274 percent from 2018. At Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport, the cancellation rate (3.71 percent) is up 107 percent this year, and the cancellation rate at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (1.86 percent) is up 158 percent through June. As severe weather impacts in these cities subside, flight operations at DRO and other regional airports will consequently improve in lock step.
In short, flight cancellations in 2019 are not just a DRO problem, they are a nationwide problem.
Passenger travel at the Durango–La Plata County Airport continues to grow steadily. July 2019 set airport records on several fronts.
DRO saw over 40,000 incoming and outgoing passengers, the busiest month in the history of the airport. A record number of flights were offered, including new seasonal Saturday service to Chicago and Houston.
As a gateway to our region, the airport continues to serve the needs of local residents while also opening the door to visitors.
Our community not only benefits from the time-savings and convenience DRO affords, but also from the economic boost that being the state’s fifth busiest commercial airport provides. Indeed, DRO and its 378,000 annual passengers contribute $280 million to the regional economy each year.
Every airport in the nation has cancellations and delays. While one may consider driving to another airport to avoid these interruptions, the same challenges may exist there. The extra time and added travel expenses incurred when using alternate airports often do not outweigh the convenience of using the thriving commercial service airport in your own backyard.
Flying remains a very safe and convenient method of travel. While we can’t control every variable that impacts your flight, the local staff at DRO – from the airline and rental car agents, to gift shop employees, to restaurant servers – is dedicated to ensuring that travel through DRO is as pleasant, convenient, and stress-free as possible.
The airport’s goal remains to handle the aspects of travel we can control with professionalism, and to assist people to the best of our ability through the circumstances we often cannot control.
Tony Vicari is the director of aviation at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.