Ready to take a vacation? You’re not alone as the Durango-La Plata airport experience record-breaking numbers this summer with both people flying from Durango and people coming to visit. You’re watching the “Local News Network” brought to you by ServiceMaster and ACE hardware. I’m Wendy Graham Settle.
The quick recap is it was the busiest summer of all time at the Durango-La Plata County airport. Our traffic was up 18% over our 2019 summer, which at the time was the busiest year of all time we’d seen prior to the pandemic. So in short, it was an extremely busy summer driven by a very substantial snapback in demand, pent up demand for overall travel, particularly leisure travel as we saw both local residents and inbound tourists interested in hitting the skies again. Yeah, we definitely saw that, you know, our overall traffic started to recover throughout 2020, but it was a subdued recovery. Even through the first quarter of 2021, we were just starting to hit about 50 to 60% recovery levels. And then really in sort of March and April around the spring break and into the spring, as you started to see that rollout of the vaccines, that’s really when the stimulation to demand took off substantially in May of 21. That’s when we reached our 2019 levels and from there it exceeded. So certainly, our growth is in large part tracked back to pandemic impacts for sure.
Earlier this spring, two new carriers announced regular routes from Durango. Frontier would offer twice weekly flights to Las Vegas and Denver and Delta would offer daily trips to Salt Lake City, which went up to two flights a day in June. Unfortunately, earlier this month, Delta announced that it would be withdrawing from Durango effective November 1.
So that was a surprising news to us and disappointing for sure. Their overall performance this summer was actually relatively strong. We saw their load factors or percentage of seats sold exceed 70%, which is a pretty strong baseline number overall. And so that departure is due to a number of things. You know, the sort of part in line is that there wasn’t sufficient demand to sustain the route long-term. However, there’s some definite other mitigating factors as it relates to competition in the market, as well as some pilot and flight crew shortages that have continued to put pressure on the airlines and they’re faced with the challenge of picking and choosing which markets to sustain. And unfortunately, that’s not one that’s going to stick with us for now, but we’re still entering the winter here with more service than we started with before the pandemic, which is a really remarkable thing to say that not many airports can.
Although Delta is leaving the airport, Frontier will be staying on through January 2022, at least, offering more options for travel. In part, because of the additional travel opportunities, the Durango-La Plata airport has begun the planning process for expanding the terminal. A project that has been years in the making. The new terminal expansion is expected to break ground in the late 2022 or early 2023, and will allow for better infrastructure for IT, more gates for flights and help to update the airport to keep up with the increase in travel demand. Although the project is still in the early stages of design, the airport is gearing up for the holiday season, where the trend from summer is expected to continue. So make sure you’re prepared for holiday crowds.
We have a lot of folks who’ve gotten used to the great conveniences of the airport, and it really is. It’s a small, easily traveled, easily navigable airport, which is great. But during those peak busy times, sometimes, you can’t get away with those close flights. So we remind folks 90 minutes prior. Make sure you don’t show up last minute. You can miss baggage cutoffs for airlines, check-in cutoffs. Well, that happens almost every single day where someone tries to come in half an hour before the flight and they realize that the airline won’t even check them in because they’re too late to be processed to keep the whole plane from being delayed. Just a reminder that masks are still required in our airport and all airports nationwide, as well as on all aircraft, as are federal regulations that are in place and remain in place through at least January of 2022. Depending on health conditions, there’s a chance that that could get extended. So we just remind folks if you’re coming to the airport, bring your mask, it’s part of the travel experience for now.
There will be opportunities to participate in discussions about the terminal expansion project this winter and spring. And a new website with information on the project will be available soon. For more information on flights and the upcoming terminal expansion project, visit flydurango.com. Thanks for watching this edition of the “Local News Network”. I’m Wendy Graham Settle.