United Airlines will begin operating a second daily Airbus A319 between Denver and Durango in January, another sign of the growing demand for air travel in Southwest Colorado.
The airline began servicing Durango with a 126-seat Airbus once a day in March. It will begin operating the second Airbus on Jan. 9.
That means two of United Airlines’ five daily flights between Durango and Denver will be serviced by an Airbus.
Typically, United services Durango with regional jets that have 65 to 76 seats. It is notable that United is maintaining frequency while increasing the size of planes servicing Durango, said Durango-La Plata County Airport aviation director Tony Vicari.
It is a sign of the growing demand in Southwest Colorado, Vicari said.
“It's been less than a year (since United introduced the first Airbus) and they're already seeing the reason to add those additional seats and gain capacity in the market, which is really exciting,” Vicari said. “It just shows the strength of the market and our ability to support these larger pieces of equipment.”
It is a trend across the airline industry to move to larger aircraft, he said. It is important that regional communities be able to support those larger aircraft, both in terms of demand and infrastructure, he said.
The airport is embarking on a $36 million terminal expansion that will, in part, help accommodate the influx of passengers that come with larger planes. The airport saw a need to increase seating areas, concessions, baggage handling and restrooms.
“Fundamentally, it's always been more efficient to fly more passengers over the same stage length with one flight crew, one aircraft, as opposed to flying multiple frequencies,” Vicari said.
United carried about 179,000 passengers at DRO in 2022, up 4% from 2021. That represents 49% of all passengers arriving and departing from Durango in 2022.