Frontier, United back DIA plowing proposal

Aug. 16, 2007

A $31 million plan at Denver International Airport to beef up snow removal to try to avoid an embarrassing and costly repeat of the crippling blizzards of 2006 has the support of DIA's two largest carriers.

But representatives for United and Frontier airlines told City Council members Wednesday that coming up with the money is still up in the air. Because the airlines don't want to bear the brunt of the costs, they're negotiating with the city.

"Operationally, it's very sound," said Lori Fox, director of public and government affairs at United. But "we're still having a continuing conversation about cost and . . . what the cost benefit justification will ultimately be."

Tom Allee, national director of community affairs at Denver- based Frontier, agreed.

Allee called it a "sound plan" from an operational standpoint.

He said Frontier lost $17 million because of the storms.

United, Denver's largest carrier, took a $30 million hit from the storms after having to cancel about 3,000 flights.

Aviation Manager Turner West pledged "some kind of financial resolution" with the airlines.

The plan involves buying "multifunctional" equipment that incorporates a snowplow, broom and blower.

It also calls for more operators, using snow melters on main ramp areas, and narrowing priority surface areas, which include runways, high-speed taxiways and connectors.

DIA spokesman Steve Snyder said the funding mechanism would be "rate based." Landing fees and ramp charges would make up the biggest portion.

DIA will ask the Federal Aviation Administration "for a discretionary grant to partially defray some of the costs of the equipment purchase," he said. "But there's no guarantee we'll get it."