RTA hopes to make final call on winter air at special meeting
Written by Aimee Brown   
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Board looks for more information about year-round service

The Gunnison County Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) met last week and, in a move that has some in the community screaming Groundhog’s Day, the board once again failed to set a definitive path for the future of next winter’s air service in the county.

 

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The lack of decision was in spite of several representatives of the RTA board already meeting with American Airlines to discuss winter flight options for the valley, and the consequent presentation of the financial aspect of those meetings during executive session.
“The logistics and cost of having United in the valley remain unknown,” said RTA executive director Scott Truex. “The board felt like it needed additional information about the possibility of having them provide year-round service to Houston and Denver before it could make a decision about committing to American.”
Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) has made known its desire for American to offer winter flights from Dallas into the valley, and it has asked the RTA to partner in the endeavor by helping to subsidize the airline’s flight guarantee.
However, according to Truex, the RTA has a limited budget and is working to determine how to best serve the county as a whole, not just the ski area.
“The board is looking for more consistency throughout the year,” said Truex.
In an effort to resolve the issue and begin scheduling flights into and out of the valley, the RTA charged airline consultant Kent Myers with determining the cost of United Airlines’ commitment to the valley. Myers findings will be presented to the board at a special meeting on Monday, May 20 at 8 a.m. in Crested Butte.
“Once the board makes a decision on the direction it wants to go, Jeff [Moffett, Director of Crested Butte Vacations] and I can put this program together in 72 hours,” said Myers.     
Prior to the board’s decision to go into executive session, the meeting had fallen into a philosophical debate about what a successful air service program would look like in the valley.
“We need the air program to become more successful so that we have more money to do things with,” said board member Chris Morgan.
To which Moffett, asked, “What is your definition of success?” Before adding that, “We need to answer questions about who we should be comparing ourselves to, and what we should be managing toward financially.”
Local attorney and audience member David Leinsdorf then attempted to remind the board of its stated mission to provide year-round service to the valley, and not cater to Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), which heavily supports a partnership with American.
“I urge you to focus on the relationship with United exclusively and not worry about American for a lot of reasons,” said Leinsdorf. “We need to have a year-round long term relationship with United. At earlier meetings Ethan [Mueller, General Manager for CBMR] said Dallas was very important to CBMR; they’re going to do the Dallas service whether you put the money in or not.”
Mueller then responded that while it was true that Dallas flights were important to the resort, the passengers the flights brought in benefitted the entire valley.
“We have always seen ourselves, and wanted to be seen, as a partner in this,” said Mueller. “Does anyone here really think that the Dallas program really benefits only the ski resort?”
To which Morgan replied, “I think it’s safe to say that the American flight is going to happen whether CBMR does it by itself or if we participate. I think Kent [Myers] needs to go to United and take a look at the costs of increasing seats seasonally, year-round service and schedule improvement.”
Before ending the public portion of the meeting, board member Aaron Huckstep summed up the debate, “What I’m hearing is that the board would like to stick with Houston and Denver at a minimum of the service we saw last year. If there is another option that the RTA could afford from Houston that would make up the loss in seats we would be all ears, but look, we keep talking in circles. Can we move forward and make some decisions?”
That apparently is the goal of next Monday’s meeting in Crested Butte.