Colorado Springs Defies COVID-19 With Its Best June In 13 Years

Colorado Springs Airport saw more passengers in June 2021 than in any other June for the past 13 years. Over 200,000 passengers were recorded up by 27.5% over June 2019. Aside from a heightened interest in outdoor activity since COVID began, the primary reason for this growth is the entry of Southwest in March this year.

AA B737-800
American’s Colorado Springs passenger numbers rose in June. Combined with Southwest’s entry and strong growth, they more than offset declines by Delta, Frontier, and United. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

A 13-year high for Colorado Springs

The airport, located about 82 miles south of Denver, saw 200,516 round-trip passengers in June, with an average seat load factor (SLF) of 81.3% if Southwest’s through traffic is included.

How have Colorado Springs' June passenger numbers changed
Colorado Springs’ passenger numbers passed 200,000 for the first time in a long time. Image: Simple Flying using data from Colorado Springs Airport.

American Airlines grew

Of the airport’s five airlines (American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, and United), only American carried more passengers than before the pandemic on its two routes to Chicago O’Hare and Dallas Fort Worth. In fact, its growth in passengers (21.8%) exceeded its growth in capacity (16.1%), meaning SLF rose to 87.2%, the highest of any carrier at the airport.

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American’s passenger increase is very likely to have been, in part, because of lowering fares to compete with Southwest’s new services to Dallas Love and Chicago Midway.

Frontier A320
Colorado Springs’ main unserved markets within roughly 1,000 miles are San Diego, Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Sacramento, Nashville, and Portland. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

July numbers to be even higher

Unlike mountainous locations in Colorado, Colorado Springs is a summertime destination. Indeed, looking back to 2019, the airport’s peak month (August) had 59% more passengers than its least popular (February). No wonder the city’s Aviation Director, Greg Phillips, is bullish, commenting that:

“If you like [our] June numbers, wait until you see July’s numbers. July is looking really good and we have had some days where more than 4,000 [enplaned] passengers passed through the checkpoint. I have high hopes for the rest of the summer. June was a good month, July was better, and in August we will have passengers from the Space Symposium.”

Southwest Boeing 737-700
Southwest serves four airports in Colorado: Denver; Colorado Springs; Steamboat Springs; and Montrose. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Southwest is key

Southwest entered Colorado Springs in March 2021 with routes from Chicago Midway, Denver, Dallas Love, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. All are crucial transit airports as well as strong cities for P2P from Colorado Springs, obviously excluding Denver.

Looking at the latest available data from the USA’s Department of Transportation’s origin and destination dataset, obtained through Cirium, Southwest’s Phoenix route seems to have performed relatively strongly despite being so new.

If all of Colorado Springs’ routes are stage-length-adjusted to 1,000 miles for greater fairness, Southwest’s Phoenix service – on which over eight in ten passengers were P2P – had total revenue per available seat mile (TRASM) of approximately 10.2 US cents, the highest.

In contrast, it was 5.6 US cents for ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Frontier’s route to Phoenix, reduced by half versus the same period in 2019. Frontier’s TRASM performance versus Southwest would, in part, be offset by the ULCC’s lower unit cost. Interestingly, while a higher SLF would normally also help to counteract it, Frontier achieved 71% against Southwest’s 80%.

Southwest B737-700
At just 73 miles, Denver-Colorado Springs is Southwest’s shortest route. It beats Kahului-Kona (84 miles), Honolulu-Kahului (100), and Chicago Midway-Grand Rapids (137). Photo: Christian Murdock via The Gazette.

Two more routes coming

Southwest’s five routes will be joined by two more Texas destinations – Houston Hobby and San Antonio – from November 23rd. Hobby will be served four-weekly and San Antonio five-weekly. San Antonio was last served by Frontier between 2018 and 2019, meaning it is a ready-made market. And interestingly, United served it non-stop in 2006.

Have you, or will you, be flying to/from Colorado this year? Let us know in the comments.