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Survey reinforces data showing Colorado Springs business travelers' flock to DIA

March 13, 2014 Updated: March 14, 2014 at 9:35 am
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Travelers are seen cast in silhouette as they wait in line at the American Airlines checkin counter at the Colorado Springs International Airport in Colorado Springs in this December photo. (Kent Nishimura, The Gazette)

A survey released Thursday underscores what a lot of Colorado Springs residents already know: Denver International Airport pulls a substantial number of passengers from southern Colorado - particularly business travelers.

The survey, conducted last month by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, found that more than half of all Colorado Springs business travelers fly from DIA for at least 75 percent of their business travel.

Just 30 percent of the 187 people who responded to the survey use the Colorado Springs Airport at least half the time. The other 70 percent use DIA at least half the time - including 55 percent who use DIA at least 75 percent of the time, according to results tabulated by airport staff.

The survey also found that respondents use Southwest Airlines out of DIA for an average of 45 percent of their business travel. Southwest does not serve the Colorado Springs Airport.

"This study is consistent with other studies we have done on local travel patterns that show about half of all southern Colorado travelers use DIA," said Neil Ralston, the Colorado Springs Airport's acting assistant director for planning and development.

A study conducted in October by the airport's marketing consultant, Seabury APG, found that 47 percent of airline passengers traveling from the Colorado Springs and Pueblo areas - about 2,000 people a day - fly from DIA rather than the local airport, mostly to get lower fares.

Seabury, a Virginia company hired to help the airport reverse a steep decline in passenger numbers, recommended a separate survey of business travelers to get more information to share with airlines.

The business alliance sent out the 27-question survey in February to 7,000 businesses in its database. About a third of those responding volunteered to help the airport improve air service, including joining focus groups to give airport staff feedback from frequent fliers.

"We thank those who responded because this gives us good solid information we will share with our airline partners. It tells them more about this market that will help us retain the service we already have and expand service to existing and new destinations," Ralston said.

Business travelers responding to the business alliance survey said deterrents to using the Springs airport are the limited destinations served by nonstop flights and the number of daily flights. They cited the reduced driving time, shorter security lines and closer-in parking to be the biggest advantages of the local airport. Nearly 60 percent said they would use local airport even if the cost of the ticket was $75 or even more than the fare to the same destination from DIA.

Nonstop flights from Colorado Springs are available to seven of the 10 cities ranked as the top business travel destinations listed by survey participants, and an eighth will come on line on May 15 when Allegiant Air launches nonstop service twice a week to Phoenix. That leaves only San Diego and Kansas City, Mo., as the only two top-ranked destinations without nonstop service.

Many of the survey participants are road warriors: Forty percent travel for business at least 25 times a year and 15 percent take business trips more than 100 times a year. while 61 percent said they expected to increase their business travel this year.

Participants were mostly small businesses - more than half had 25 or fewer employees.

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