Grand County won’t support SkyWest’s flight change plans

Canyonlands Field Airport administration was hoping to vary the schedule of flights out of the airport, but met pushback with the Grand County Council. Photo courtesy of Canyonlands Field Airport

Canyonlands Field Airport Director Jud Hill suffered a setback when the Grand County Council earlier this month rejected his request that members support seasonal Essential Air Services that would allow more daily flights during the busy tourist season and fewer in the winter.

Hill in written material referred to the current ESA contract between SkyWest Airlines and the U.S. Department of Transportation that went into effect 13 months ago and ends in February.

He said SkyWest “would like to offer a schedule that varies the number of weekly flights throughout the year to better be able to accommodate those flying out of, and into, Grand County’s airport.” He said SkyWest would use that schedule if the carrier’s federal contract is extended beyond next February.

Hill said the total number of annual flights would not change. There would always be at least one flight per day, he said, and would range from one to three.

The schedule shift would allow for more flights each week during the busy tourist season, and fewer flights in the winter. He noted the best time to purchase a ticket is at least 54 days beforehand in order to get the best price.

Hill said the shift would help increase the number of passengers – the load factor – of flights throughout the year, which he called an “essential variable” used when an airline considers whether to invest in a particular market.

Improving capacity with demand is the goal of SkyWest. From Aug. 20 through Oct. 4, SkyWest would make 16 weekly round trips to Denver; 18 from Oct. 5 to Oct. 27 and seven round-trip flights from Oct. 28 to Feb. 29.

SkyWest believes the change would “better serve the needs of passengers … during peak travel times.”

The measure failed in a rare 2-2-2 vote with two yays, Curtis Wells and Greg Halliday; two nays, Chair Evan Clapper and Jaylyn Hawks; and two recusals, Rory Paxman and Mary McGann. Vice Chair Terry Morse was not in attendance. Hawks during the discussion voiced frustration with the lack of flights to Salt Lake City and an overall feeling the airport is not doing enough for locals.