Springs airport expected to regain service to two dropped cities

June 20, 2013 Updated: June 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Two airlines are expected to announce plans this summer to offer service to two new cities from the Colorado Springs Airport, said Dan Gallagher, the airport's interim director.

The new flights will help the airport recover from the loss of Frontier Airlines, which ended service to the Springs in April, less than a year after making Colorado Springs a "focus city" with nonstop service to four western U.S. cities.

Gallagher declined to identify the airlines or the destinations, but said both cities were previously served from the Springs by other carriers. Since 2010, U.S. Airways ended service to Phoenix, Delta halted flights to Minneapolis and Frontier axed service to Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle. United Express still offers nonstop flights to Los Angeles.

Gallagher and another airport official met earlier this month with seven airlines at an industry conference in Atlanta. He said all seven were receptive to the airport's plans to cut its annual operating expenses by $3 million, or 14 percent, by leaving open positions unfilled, delaying the purchase of snow removal equipment and refinancing and paying off much of the airport's $39 million in debt.

"If we meet our (savings goals) this summer, we are looking at two airlines making announcements to two different cities," Gallagher said.

New flights could help blunt the loss of Frontier, which triggered the biggest drop in passenger traffic at the airport in 1+ years, even before it completely exited the Springs. In March, because of Frontier's reduced service, passenger traffic dropped 12.4 percent drop from a year earlier to 54,967 passengers. Airport officials have forecast that Frontier's departure would cut passenger numbers this year to 670,000, unless new service is added. That would mark an 18.5 percent drop from a year ago and the lowest annual total in 22 years.

Mayor Steve Bach named Gallagher the airport's interim director in March after the former director, Mark Earle, resigned amid a disagreement with Bach over how the airport should try to attract more passengers and airline service.

Bach said earlier this week that the city hopes to hire a consultant by the end of the month to develop a new marketing strategy for the airport. Under its request for proposals, the city said it expected to pay between $125,000 and $150,000 to the consultant.

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