Oh ye hard-boiled, cynical consumers of La Plata County: Yes, those low-priced airfares you’ve seen promoted by Durango-La Plata County Airport are for real.
Aviation Director Tony Vicari said the seemingly too-good-to-be-believed prices are being identified by the Durango Airport Airfare Club, a free service to anyone who signs up.
The service, provided by a contracted firm, searches low airfares it has discovered from DRO to any other airport, domestic or international, and sends out once-a-week alerts by email to anyone who signs up. Some of the identified fares are also sent out on the airport’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
“Airfares are very dynamic,” Vicari said. “They change from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. We can’t guarantee the fares will be available later, but generally, they don’t change for a week or so, especially domestic flights.”
As an example, a fare tweeted Nov. 15 by the airport advertising a $290 round-trip price for a flight from Durango to Atlanta, with a layover in Dallas-Fort Worth, was still valid on American Airlines when checked this week.
Vicari said the low fares identified by the Airfare Club are often months out and sometimes to obscure destinations, but the deals are valid at the time they are emailed or sent out on a social media page.
Airlines, not DRO, set ticket prices, but Vicari said he occasionally spot-checks the deals, and they generally hold up, at least for the day the email is sent, and usually, they are valid for about a week.
People can sign up for the service at DRO’s website, www.durangogov.org. Under “Flights & Airlines,” click DRO Airfare Club in the drop-down menu.
“One of our goals is to gain exposure in the minds of regional residents looking for airfares. We always want people in the region to look at us first, and if we’re not competitive, people are going to look elsewhere. We understand that, but we want people to understand that we often are price-competitive,” Vicari said.
Some people will drive 3½ hours to Albuquerque or six hours to Denver for cheaper fares, and Vicari said that is something he understands.
However, he added when people figure in the prices of gas, lodging and the value of their time spent on the road, an airfare that is more expensive out of Durango might, in the broader sense, be more affordable than traveling to a regional hub airport for a flight.
The Airfare Club is aimed at the leisure traveler who has more flexibility in planning the time and destination of a trip.
For instance, a leisure traveler might be planning in summer for a trip to Mexico in February. The Airfare Club may identify a cheap flight to South Florida out of DRO that may be attractive, and the traveler can adjust his or her February, warm-weather vacation from Mexico to South Florida.
The best way to get a low fare is to be flexible in the dates, the times and the destinations, and leisure travelers typically have a bigger cushion when planning their flights than business travelers, and that makes the Airfare Club best-suited to their needs, Vicari said.
DRO pays Community Flights $1,000 a month to operate the Durango Airport Airfare Club. It is paid for out of DRO’s $100,000 marketing budget, which is used to promote the airport in Southwest Colorado and Northwest New Mexico.
The Airfare Club only identifies the fares and leaves it to subscribers to book the flight.
The airport is funded only by self-generated fees and charges to its users. It does not receive other taxpayer money for operations.