The number of airline passengers traveling through Durango-La Plata County Airport has increased steadily since the coronavirus pandemic nearly halted air travel in April.
“Our trajectory continues to point in the right direction,” said Tony Vicari, director of aviation.
The airport is outpacing the U.S. in recovery. As of Sunday, the Durango airport was experiencing 38% of the business it had this time last year. Airports nationwide saw 27% of the passengers they had at this time a year ago.
For the month of June, Durango-La Plata County Airport had 23% of the passengers it had in June 2019.
“We are continuing to see additional demand on the passenger side,” Vicari said. The airport has had about 300 passengers per day for the past few days.
At the national level, air travel demand is slowing. Data from the Transportation Security Administration shows the first decline in passengers across the U.S. since April as a result of another wave of COVID-19 – bad news for airlines hoping to promote summer travel.
But Southwest Colorado has not seemed to experience the same decline. The Mountain West and the southern U.S. have experienced growth despite the bleak national and international outlook for air travel, most likely because of tourism, Vicari said. Places like Southwest Colorado are known for their wide-open spaces, and states in the south offer warm beaches, he said.
Durango-La Plata County Airport is “not as dependent on business traffic” as other airports like Denver, Vicari said, which is “good for the economics of the airport and the region.”
American Airlines is now offering two daily flights to Dallas and a daily flight to Phoenix from Durango-La Plata County Airport. United Airlines added a third daily flight to Denver, Vicari said.
Meanwhile, the Four Corners Regional Airport in Farmington planned to begin offering a once-a-day commercial flight to Denver in October, but the flight has been postponed until at least spring 2021 because of uncertainties in the market. As of Tuesday, there were 2,842 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 176 deaths in San Juan County, New Mexico.
And British Airways announced last week it is retiring the Boeing 747 planes that fly into and out of Denver, jumbo jets that before the pandemic would carry passengers from Colorado to Heathrow Airport in London every day. The German airline Lufthansa is also unsure about continuing its Boeing 747 flights from Denver, as travel bans remain in place between the two continents.
Vicari said the decision to travel is a personal one, but he recommends air travelers do research beforehand to determine what restrictions are in place at their final destination, particularly quarantine and face-mask requirements.