If you chose the unassuming airport of Colorado Springs, Colorado, sitting in the shadow of the vast new Denver International Airport you were right. By August 1995, its embarking passenger traffic had grown by 84 percent over the previous 12 months.
The Denver airport seems to have underestimated the importance that passengers place on the price of fares. Until recently all passengers at Denver had to absorb a 30 dollar surcharge per ticket and even now it is difficult to understand which fares still carry an increase.
Colorado Springs is only twenty miles farther away than Denver International. While Denver is 50 miles from the city, Colorado Springs is 70 and the addition of twenty minutes to an already substantial drive does not justify the considerable mark-up in fares to most passengers. The cost of all fares at the Denver airport were said to have risen as much as 46 percent over the past year, creating adverse publicity even though United Airlines believes the increases are closer to 15.
In contrast, Colorado Springs, with gates still operating well below capacity, may even experience a drop in cost, per embarking passenger, to $4 in the next year. This will certainly attract even more low cost business and some hope that Southwest Airlines may return, although the airline says it has no plans to do so. Other growing areas include the airport that serves Durango Colorado.
Bus companies and air carriers that serve Colorado Springs, such as Overland Airport Express and Western Pacific Air Lines, are all reporting exceptional growth. Like Denver, Colorado Springs is a new airport and its gates are still capable of a considerable increase in traffic without expansion. At the same time, new parking structures and other facilities are being installed to accommodate passengers.
A spokesman for Colorado Springs Airport says the new terminal was built to handle 1.2 million embarking passengers and they will hit that mark in late November or early December -- little more than a year after the terminal opened.
Recently, United Airlines, with 80% control over the Denver market, came under such pressure from passengers and the media, for the increases in fares, that they convened a public meeting to hear the complaints first hand. United’s Chairman and CEO, Gerald Greenwald, visited Denver in mid-September and attended the meeting. He came away determined to clear up any problem. As a result, United decided to roll back many fares, matching them to the same service out of Colorado Springs. These fares however are flight-specific. They include non-stop service between Denver and San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston and San Diego.
Analysts and observers predict that the little Colorado Springs airport will continue to grow for another three to five years and it is unlikely that Denver International will be able to reverse the trend in the near future.
“I have flown Western Pacific out of Colorado Springs a couple of times mainly because of the greatly reduced airfares. I saved a ‘couple of hundred’ each time.”
“COS (Colorado Springs Airport) is new and very small which is nice.”
“The major advantage of Colorado Springs is one of cost. My best friend recently flew to Las Vegas on his honeymoon. Round trip tickets out of DIA (Denver International Airport) cost $300 but out of COS on Reno Air were $100 each!”
“I’ll do COS when the weather is good but I’m about to put that tactic away for the winter.”
“Pack a lunch for the walk out to the rental car lot - and treats for the sled dogs in winter.”
“Parking is a mess! I’ve had to park way out in dirt -- they claim to be fixing this problem but I can imagine the mess it will be during the thick of winter.”
“I-25 frequently closes in the winter between Denver and Colorado Springs. Betcha COS loses a few converts after that happens a few times!”
“When the cut-rates begin to make serious money will their air fares remain low or begin to rise? To anyone who wants to use Colorado Springs to save money, do it now.”
“Fares are dropping at DIA and cut-rate airlines are beginning to operate from there. Frontier Airlines offers a fare to Los Angeles for $146 compared to United’s $ 1020.”
. . . and those in favor of Denver International Airport:
“DIA has a couple of advantages: it’s much closer to Denver and major carriers fly into it. My only advice is to use the underground train because it gets you to the main terminal very quickly.”
“Contrary to popular opinion the baggage system works fine - never had a problem.”
“DIA is the nicest airport I’ve ever been at. Everything is brand spanking new and there’s quite a bit to see and do if you get stuck there.”