US Airways ending its Springs flights in January


Oct. 29--US Airways will stop flights in Colorado Springs on Jan. 4, citing increased low-fare competition at Denver International Airport that has made serving the Springs unprofitable for the last two years, the airline said Wednesday.

Tempe, Ariz.-based US Airways offers four flights a day between the Springs and its Phoenix hub, operated as US Airways Express by Mesa Airlines. The cuts here are part of a broader restructuring and cost-cutting effort, which will result in 1,000 job cuts in the first half of next year and focus most of the carrier's flights through hubs in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C. US Airways also will end flights to Wichita, Kan., and reduce flights to Las Vegas by nearly half.

US Airways said it will rebook passengers who bought tickets for flights after Jan. 3 on other airlines and contact them once the new tickets are issued. Passengers on those flights can also contact the carrier at 1-800-428-4322.

"We will be closing our (Colorado Springs) station due to poor economic performance over the past two years," said Andrew Christie, a US Airways spokesman. "More and more customers have chosen to drive to Denver for lower fares. Colorado Springs is simply too small and too close to Denver to effectively compete."

US Airways will become the third airline to leave Colorado Springs since April 2008, when Midwest Airlines halted service.

ExpressJet Airlines stopped service four months later.

They each blamed higher fuel prices.

The departure of US Airways, which has flown about 7 percent of the passengers leaving the Springs so far this year, will leave the airport with seven carriers serving 10 cities.

Colorado Springs has a long history with one of the airlines, America West, that was merged in 2005 to create US Airways. The Springs was one of the first four cities served in 1983 at the launch of America West Airlines, and the carrier eventually expanded its local service to include flights to Las Vegas, service that ended in August 2008. America West founder and Pueblo native Ed Beauvais also founded Western Pacific Airlines in the Springs, which shut down in 1998.

Mark Earle, aviation director for the Springs airport, said US Airways attracted plenty of passengers in Colorado Springs, filling more than 85 percent of the nearly 60,000 seats available on its flights here during the first nine months of the year. He said fares have declined in Colorado Springs "since the low-fare battle has heated up in Denver, and in some cases, our fares are on par or even lower than Denver, depending on the airline and route."

Although the airport is not privy to US Airways' cost structure, Earle said the carrier could be losing money in the Springs because it was flying 50-seat regional jets on the route that are more expensive to operate than larger aircraft. While other major carriers also use similar aircraft in Colorado Springs, he said they also have been slowly shifting their local flights to larger 70- and 90-seat regional jets that are not as expensive to operate.

Mike Boyd, an Evergreen-based aviation industry consultant, estimated 50-seat regional jets cost between 70 percent and 90 percent more per mile to operate than full-sized passenger aircraft, such as Boeing 737s or Airbus 318s. He said Colorado Springs will remain vulnerable to further loss of air service as low-fare giant Southwest Airlines intensifies competition and, as a result, draws more passengers from Colorado Springs to its flights from Denver.

"You will see a full-scale assault on Denver by Southwest," Boyd said. "They see their two major competitors in Denver (Frontier and United) are vulnerable, and they won't miss that opportunity. Colorado Springs could be caught in the crossfire."


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