Airport adds more ways to get out of town for holidays

One flight from Dallas, another to Phoenix

American Airlines has added a second flight from Dallas to Durango.

The afternoon flight was originally added just for the holiday season, but the airline has extended the flights into March because of its popularity.

The flight started running Thursday and departs at about 5 p.m., said Don Brockus, spokesman for the Durango-La Plata County Airport. The ERJ 145 can hold 47 passengers.

US Airways also added a daily flight for the holiday season. The flight leaves about 9:45 p.m. with service to Phoenix and will run Thursday through Dec. 30.

A Bombardier CRJ 200 jet that holds 50 passengers will likely fly passengers to Phoenix, but the aircraft could vary among different regional jets, Brockus said.

Similar to Thanksgiving weekend, travelers are being urged to arrive two hours before their flight during the Christmas holidays and to find alternative transportation to the airport because parking has been limited.

On a regular weekend, the main parking lot has been filling up by Thursday and the credit card or long-term parking lots have been full by Friday.

The airport can accommodate 1,000 parked vehicles, but the airport has been growing by about 1,000 passengers a month.

The airport expects to break its record for passenger traffic this year, with 185,000 people expected to depart by the end of this month.

The airport had about 175,000 departures in 2011 and about 163,000 in 2010, Brockus said.

We have been setting records every year for the last three years, he said.

United Airlines and Frontier Airlines phased in larger planes this summer to add more seats to the market.

The Federal Aviation Administration announced in June that the airport would receive $1.6 million in federal money to help finance improvements to the parking lots, runway and terminal.

The airport plans to construct a north-south concourse with four or five gates. It currently has three.

jdahl@durangoherald.com