DENVER - It isn't real till you've seen it. The snowstorms that blasted the Rocky Mountains and Denver between Christmas and New Year made headline news after some 4,000 flyers were stranded in Denver's decade-old airport for as long as 45 hours, but not just because it was a slow news period, writes Americas Editor David Field.
The weather out here is a real thing, and people take it seriously as the snaking coils of doubled-up queues at Denver's airport demonstrated this week, as thousands of people flocked to flee an impending storm. The snow and ice of the last two storms was still heavy on the ground, as deep as two or three inches and thick. Wary of a new wintry blast headed in from the Pacific, people lined up to get away. As one seatmate pointed out: "Westerners are supposed to be hardy, but a third storm will be too much."
The cost of the December blizzards was just coming out as Airline Business visited Frontier Airlines here. Frontier's chief executive, Jeff Potter, put his head in his hands as he predicted a "humongous" bill for de-icing glycol, let alone the forgone revenues. Frontier, the number two here, lost as much as $12 million in all.
United, the largest by far at the airport said that the wintry storms here and a blast at its Chicago O'Hare hub would cost it as it as much as $40 million and probably force it into a deficit for the fourth quarter.
Denver International Airport officials said the two storms added some $7 million above budget and cost it about $4.5 million in lost concession fees.
The storms carry a powerful reminder: weather is still an inestimably crucial factor in aviation, and even an experienced hand needs a reminder now and then of the natural forces that are beyond our control.