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United Airlines is rolling out a new offering at Denver International Airport designed to get Colorado visitors off their planes and into the mountains — or to Larimer County — ASAP. The mechanism: A bus.
The carrier, the largest operator at DIA, announced Friday that it is partnering with ground transportation company Landline on a service that will allow passengers to get off their planes and board a bus from the airport’s Concourse A direct to Breckenridge or Loveland.
No airport train to the terminal, waiting for bags at the carousel, taking a shuttle to a rental car office or hailing a cab, Lyft or Uber. United will transfer customers’ bags from their plane to the Landline bus for them. The drop-off point in the Summit County town, 319 N. Main St., is about a football field away from the gondola for Breckenridge Ski Resort, airline officials touted this week.
“We wanted to get really creative about how to provide a seamless, no-friction customer experience that we really think will be kind of a game-changer with how easy it is,” Janet Lamkin, United’s senior vice president of market and community innovation, said.
Tickets for the Breckenridge route were scheduled to go on sale Friday with the first bus trips back and forth hitting the road on March 11. A single (for now) mountain-bound bus will leave the airport at 11:15 a.m. daily and set out in the opposite direction between 1:55 and 2:25 p.m. depending on the day of the week. Landline service between DIA and Larimer County will begin on April 1 with four bus trips daily, according to a news release.
Austyn Dineen, spokeswoman for Breckenridge tourism office, said the new service aligns with sustainability goals.
“Initiatives centered around getting people out of their cars much as possible to maintain the outdoor quality of life that both locals and visitors are craving, as well as minimize the environmental impacts in the region,” she wrote in an email.
The Larimer County service is meant to connect passengers with Fort Collins but the drop-off will be at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland, according to United. Outgoing passengers will have access to free parking there. Airline officials say the service will give Fort Collins a direct connection to a global air carrier for the first time in 25 years.
Pricing for the service will vary based on flight origin or destination, day of travel and other factors. For now, COVID-19 safety protocols will limit bus capacity to 28 of the 56 seats, airline officials say.
DIA has been a bright spot for United and other airlines during the pandemic. United traffic at the airport is about 80% of 2019 levels, far better than any other hub in its network, Lamkin said Thursday, noting passengers want to visit outdoor destinations like ski resorts and national parks.
It’s also a bit of good news for United in a week where it had its share of bad. A United plane out of DIA saw one of its engines explode and rain wreckage down on metro area neighborhoods on Saturday before returning safely to the airport. The impact the incident has on demand, if any, for the United flights in the market has yet to be seen.
Southwest Airlines last year added seasonal flights between DIA and the Steamboat Springs area and between DIA and Montrose, getting passengers closer to Telluride. Those destinations can also be reached from Dallas on Southwest.
Lamkin sees potential for the Landline partnership at DIA.
“Denver is just the perfect place for the design of this experience because there are so many locations within 100 miles of the airport,” she said. “I could foresee Boulder being a location that we might line up.”