The Yampa Valley Regional Airport’s busy season — which has been at a record level of busy this year — is winding down.
Many of the flights bringing tourists from places like Boston, Los Angeles, and Houston have come and gone, while others from Minneapolis, Atlanta and Chicago are tapering off next week.
On April 11, the day after Steamboat Ski Resort closes the slopes, the airport will enter its offseason, where it only has flights to and from Denver.
But, as air travel was still finding its way amid the COVID-19 pandemic last summer, destinations like Steamboat with easy access to the outdoors were popular. United Airlines — the longtime year-round carrier in Hayden — upped its flights, and Southwest Airlines added the Yampa Valley to its summer line up.
Both are back this year.
Kevin Booth, the airport’s director, says the increased bustling at the airport year round — 2021 saw the most passengers ever and this year will likely end up beating it — will require some significant staffing changes.
“It will help us both in the offseason and during the busy season as well,” Booth said.
On Tuesday, March 29, Routt County Commissioners approved a series of staffing changes, adding some full-time positions and adjusting some jobs to be year-round positions, rather than seasonal.
“We’re having a remarkable year attracting all these passengers to our community. I think we need to take care of these people while they are here,” commissioner Tim Corrigan said.
In 2020, the airport saw a total of about 91,000 passengers. Last year, that grew to 153,000. Projections for this year show further growth, with 2022 expected to total more than 191,000 passengers.
The changes add two key positions. The airport will hire another full-time firefighter, a move that has Booth hoping to fill three part-time roles that he has been struggling to fill for months. Staff will also add an assistant security coordinator, doubling security’s capacity.
“I would say, (the Transportation Security Administration) has upped their game on what they’re requiring,” Booth said. “As we get busier, those continue to increase.”
Another change includes turning two part-time cook positions in the airport’s restaurant into full-time roles. By 2022, the restaurant is budgeted to make just under $1.2 million in sales. It made more than half that in January and February alone.
Lastly, Booth said he wanted to change four seasonal passenger services positions into jobs that are part-time all year long. Booth said in the past, pretty much everyone at the airport, including janitors and administrative staff have pitched in to fill this role.
“Our passenger services have done yeoman’s work in the evenings,” Booth said. “They are our first line of defense if something happens.”
Commissioners were supportive of Booth’s asks, especially because the Airport is profitable for the county. He also outlined expected increases in security and landing fees at the airport to pay for these additional expenses. For example, landing fees alone are expected to increase by about $400,000 this year, totaling about $1.5 million in 2022.
Routt County manager Jay Harrington said he anticipated reviewing this staffing again next spring to make sure it was still appropriate.
“We’ve grown up into a real airport, haven’t we?” Corrigan asked rhetorically.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.