GA Blamed For Airline Delays In Aspen

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As frustrated airline passengers waited for flights to Denver that ranged from a few minutes to six hours late on Mar. 15, airport staff were making public-address system announcements blaming the delays on an influx of private aircraft. That quite naturally riled those cooling their heels in the gates. “You’re causing a huge inconvenience for hundreds of people who fly into Denver,” Aspen resident Richard Simpson, whose daughter was stuck at the airport for most of the day, told The Aspen Times. “I’d like to know what (Washington) D.C.’s policy is, because in my opinion, you’re screwing over hundreds of people by letting in extra private aircraft.” Well, the FAA said it wasn’t its fault and that in the absence of slots at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport it’s first come, first served for any aircraft landing and taking off. “An aircraft is an aircraft and there’s no preferential treatment unless there’s an emergency," FAA spokesman Mike Fergus told the newspaper. “And I can tell you that any delays were not induced by the FAA or Air Traffic Control.” But SkyWest Airlines spokeswoman Marissa Snow disagreed. “It was related to Air Traffic Control, and out of the airline’s control,” she said. And as these things generally go, there were some complicating factors.

Both commercial and private flights were disrupted by a storm the day before and that meant there was a backlog of both commercial and private traffic when the weather cleared. The airport was also closed for an hour after a private aircraft slid off the runway. And although the ramp was full of GA aircraft on that day, Airport Manager Jim Elwood said increased airline service to Aspen has actually reduced GA traffic by 18 percent as private pilots opted for airline seats.