Private aviation flies to Aspen
Knowing that they can work remotely with a world of leisure and recreation outside their backdoor, new homeowners and affluent visitors looking to escape the life of the suburbs and big cities have not only ignited the real estate market in New York. the Aspen region, but also the activity of private aviation.
This was evident by the swelling of the seas of private planes from the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. The pandemic has, in fact, generated such demand for private flights to Sardy Field – as more commercial flights were stranded than in the air during the peak of the outbreak – that two Aspen residents recently. opened an operation at Rifle Garfield County Airport to deal with the fallout. private aircraft (also called general aviation) from Aspen and Vail airports.
“With the influx of new part-time and full-time residents, the airports were full and there was no place to hang more planes,” said Robert Holton, who, along with Jeff Posey, opened Rifle Aviation at Rifle Garfield County Airport.
Last summer’s pandemic sparked a home-buying frenzy in the Aspen area, leading to a seller’s market that saw the county hit a record $ 3 billion in total real estate transactions in 2020 (this figure includes agricultural and commercial properties as well as residential properties). People with the financial means to buy property in and around Aspen also have the means to charter a private jet, which has not been lost for Aspen real estate broker Brittanie Rockhill. In its April newsletter, Rockhill announced a partnership it had formed with a charter service that clients or homebuyers could use.
“I have so many clients who come here and fly in private,” said Rockhill, “and I try to make it as transparent as possible for them.”
BOOMTIME FOR GENERAL AVIATION
General aviation has in fact seen an increase in the number of departures and arrivals from Aspen in January and February during the same month in 2020 and 2019, following a trend dating back to May 2020, according to a recent presentation by the director of the Pitkin County, Jon Peacock, on Pandemic Indicators.
Yet it crippled the commercial airline industry in 2020 – 43 commercial airlines either suspended or went bankrupt, and the aviation industry as a whole reported a 65.9% drop in demand at as of 2019, with losses of $ 118 billion, according to McGill and Partners.
The effects were felt in 2020 at Aspen Airport, which had 4,314 commercial flights for 188,873 passenger boardings, a 40% drop from 306,546 people in 2019, according to flight data from County of Pitkin. The number of arriving passengers fell by 41.6%, from 300,981 landings in 2019 to 175,608 in 2020.
For the first quarter of this year, public health restrictions eased due to widespread vaccine availability and declining cases in the United States.
In turn, commercial airline activity has increased at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, where boardings totaled 32,688 in March – the highest number since the 41,607 in February 2020, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Pitkin County Airport.
The majority of flights to and from Aspen-Pitkin County Airport are general aviation – charter jets, business jets, anything that isn’t commercial.
And even as commercial activity begins to rebound on Sardy Field’s single runway, general aviation has continued to increase its flight frequency on commercial carriers by a margin of about three to one. This ratio is reflected in private flights accounting for 73.2% of the 4,390 flights to and from Sardy Field in January, compared to general aviation having 64.1% of total flights in January 2020, according to the FAA. .
Private aviation also accounted for 73.5% of 3,788 flights in February and 76.6% of 5,126 in March – compared to 64.2% of 4,173 flights in February 2020 and 62.4% of 3,278 flights in March 2020, when the pandemic struck and ski areas closed in the middle of the month.
Companies like Aspen-based evoJet offer direct charter flights to and from markets such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Another, AspenJet, operates semi-private charter flights across the country in its 30 seats. Aero flew its reconfigured 16-seat regional aircraft between Aspen and Van Nuys Airport from February through April. A summer flight on Aero, such as a one-way ticket to Aspen from Los Angeles on Aero, if it had been booked on Friday, July 5, would have cost $ 1,600, for example.
Flights on FlyBlade to Aspen from Westchester County, New York, on a 14-seat Gulfstream G400 have been advertised starting at $ 3,500, for example.
Local airline consultant Bill Tomcich said there is a cross between affluent business and private travelers.
“There is always a niche between those who fly first class commercial flights and those who can afford to charter their own private jets,” he said.
“Commercial airlines have been a bit slow to respond to the growing demand, and we’re clearly seeing an increase in demand, and we’ve seen a big increase in private air travel,” Tomcich said.
The volume of commercial service in Aspen this summer will be comparable if not heavier than the pre-pandemic summer seasons, Tomcich said. Sales in Aspen last summer plunged into historic lows.
FAA data shows that 212 commercial flights accounted for 6.7% of the 3,182 flights in June 2020; 397 commercial flights in July 2020 accounted for 8.7% of flights that month; 484 commercial flights in August 2020 accounted for 8.6% of all flights that month; and of the 4,411 flights in September 2020, 404 – 9.1% – were commercial.
While real estate brokers would like to see this summer repeat its performance from 2020, this is not the case for commercial airlines. This summer’s schedule, Tomcich noted, will see more Aspen service from American and United Airlines.
“Come in June, we’ll see more than ever during the summer between American and United,” he said.
American will begin offering five daily flights between Aspen and DFW in early June, two daily from Chicago and Los Angeles, and one daily from Phoenix, as well as a new Saturday flight from Austin, TX. United will provide service to Denver seven times a day, as well as two daily flights from Los Angeles and Houston, and one daily from Chicago and San Francisco.
Commercial air fares for domestic round trips averaged $ 292 in 2020, the lowest inflation-adjusted rate since the Bureau of Transportation began collecting such data in 1995.
Additionally, in 2020, 131 million passengers traveled on U.S. airlines, up from 331 million in 2019.Commercial carriers are returning to their pre-pandemic levels and so are prices. April airfares exceeded March airfares by 13.1%, according to Travel Weekly on May 13, citing data from the Consumer Price Index
The service of commercial airlines has traditionally surpassed private aviation in terms of local economic impact. The 2020 Colorado Aviation Economic Impact Study, which measured the economic impacts of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport using 2018 data, noted that the facility had a economic impact on 7,886 jobs, $ 363.6 million in payroll and nearly $ 1 billion in commercial revenues. These data are based on both spending and employment at and outside the airport, and combine business and general activities.
The most recent report available comparing general and commercial aviation, in terms of economic impact, was based on 2013 data and the differences between the two were significant. Business visitors had an economic impact on 4,682 jobs, while general aviation accounted for 697 jobs. The overall impact of commercial aviation was $ 572.1 million in 2013, compared to $ 83.4 million for general aviation. The report was written by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Aeronautics Division.
Regardless, Tomcich said the impact of general aviation on local businesses and tourism after the pandemic was increasing dramatically.
“This is something to watch very closely,” said Tomcich of the impact of general aviation on tourism in Aspen.
But, he noted, commercial airlines bring in the large number of passengers that resort promoters aspire to: “My main role is to work with commercial carriers because it handles a lot more people.”
Editor’s Note: The original version of this article incorrectly reported that Delta will serve Aspen this summer. It won’t.