Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is now home to the shortest commercial flight in the nation offered by a major carrier. The flight from Eagle County Regional Airport to Aspen takes about 30 minutes and only exists as a temporary fix during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to qualify for federal aid, American Airlines had to prove it was still serving all of its regular destinations. With many Americans encouraged to limit travel, few passengers are bound for mountain towns. So to meet requirements and receive money through the CARES Act, the airline consolidated stops at three small Colorado airports into one route.
Five days a week, a Bombardier CRJ700 regional jet takes off from Dallas/Fort Worth and makes stops in Eagle, Aspen and Montrose before returning to Texas. The Eagle and Aspen airports are only about 29 miles apart, as the crow flies. The plane spends about half an hour in the air between the two stops.
John Kinney, Aspen/Pitkin County Airport Director, said this comes as a cost-saving measure for an airline that had no choice but to continue landing at airports with little demand for flights.
“I think it’s their way of still achieving compliance since the [Department of Transportation] disapproved their petition to cease the service between these airports,” Kinney said. “The most cost-effective alternative to serving those four markets independently is to combine them.”
Kinney added that air travel will emerge from the pandemic with reduced flight volumes across the board.
“This is just what is happening across the county for scheduled service,” Kinney said. “Once the new norm is re-established at some point in time in the future, there is probably going to be 60 to 70% of what your air service was before. And that includes the larger airports.”
When the Dallas-Eagle-Aspen-Montrose route is discontinued in early June, the title for the nation’s shortest flight will return to an island route in southeastern Alaska.