After a year-and-a-half process, a 20-year master plan for the Durango-La Plata County Airport will be ready for county and city officials to review on Oct. 13.
On Tuesday, Airport director Kip Turner updated La Plata County commissioners on the plan, and reported that while flight numbers at the airport are robust, it is losing passengers to larger surrounding cities.
According to a report released this month by Sixel, a consulting firm for small- and medium-size airports, the airport retains 49.3 percent of the traffic generated in its overall catchment area, while Albuquerque captures 24.6 percent of the area traffic, and Denver captures 21.9 percent.
Passengers can save $55-$80 in ticket price by driving to those cities, but savings disappear when factoring in gasoline prices to drive 215 miles to Albuquerque or 350 miles to Denver. Turner said the airport’s 2016 budget proposal will include marketing funds that will hopefully result in boosted flight numbers.
“It can be taken that we’re losing passengers to Albuquerque and Denver, or we have an opportunity we’re not realizing at this point,” he said.
“The glass half-empty is you’re leaking, or the glass half-full means we have that opportunity for growth. I proposed in the proposed budget for an increase in marketing to try to bring awareness.”
Durango-La Plata County Airport averages about 200,000 enplanements annually, and its catchment area generates about 1,062 passengers daily each way. La Plata County specifically generates 477 passengers daily.
Despite the loss of Frontier Airlines, which discontinued about 40 routes after the recession, the airport’s capacity increased to a new high of 690 seats daily each way. Compared with the average U.S. airport, which lost domestic capacity in the recession and remains at those levels, Durango’s capacity increased by 74 percent. Turner attributed this to market strength.