For routine travelers such as Bayfield resident Ron Martin, the Durango-La Plata County Airport seems to have its share of delays and cancellations.
"It's pretty much a shared frustration that we commiserate about," said Martin, who uses the airport every week and has more than 1 million miles traveled. "We try not to take it out on the crews or desk people, but it is hugely frustrating."
Martin's annoyance has some basis in reality.
The Durango-La Plata County Airport ranks below average for on-time arrivals, departures and cancellations when compared with 1,200 airports around the world. During a four-month period between August and November, 31 percent of arriving flights were delayed, 26 percent of departing flights were delayed and 2 percent of flights were canceled, according to FlightView, which tracks commercial flights.
But that's understandable considering it's a regional airport in the mountains that is serviced by two major hubs - Denver and Dallas/Fort Worth - that also contend with severe weather issues, said Kip Turner, director of the Durango-La Plata County Airport.
When compared with other regional airports located in the mountains - and, therefore, subject to adverse weather conditions - Durango ranks about average for delays and cancellations, Turner said.
"I would say we're at par or even better," he said. "We are a mountain airport. We deal with mountain conditions, and that does affect sometimes the averages or data that goes into on-time performance."
FlightView began tracking on-time performance only four months ago in Durango. On average, Durango ranked 831st for on-time arrivals, 775th for on-time departures and 903rd for cancellations when compared with 1,200 airports worldwide - 1st being the best, 600th being average and 1,200th being the worst.
FlightView was unable to provide a comprehensive breakdown of specific flights that contributed to delays and cancellations in Durango. Flights are considered "delayed" if they depart or arrive 15 minutes or more after their scheduled times. The data is aggregated from a variety of sources, including the FAA and airlines. The company can track on-time data for about 95 percent of all flights, according to a spokesman.
Turner said the airport has little control over on-time flights or cancellations. It's more a reflection of weather conditions, airline performance and Durango's regional airport status, he said.
Rather than compare Durango to airports worldwide, Turner prefers to compare regional airports such as Grand Junction and Santa Fe, which are similar in size, geographical location and weather patterns - especially Grand Junction, with about 120 flights more per month than Durango. Grand Junction performed worse for on-time departures but better for on-time arrivals and cancellations.
"We're not an apples-to-apples airport for every other regional airport in the country," Turner said. "For example, if you take a mountainous regional airport and you compare it to a coastal regional airport that never has weather except for an occasional hurricane, they're going to have year-round fewer problems."
Even though Turner said it's unfair to compare Durango to large hubs, he noted that Durango's performance is not that far off from Denver International Airport, which is the sixth busiest airport in the world. DIA ranked 406th for on-time arrivals, 563rd for on-time departures and 607th for cancellations during the four-month period.
"When I saw that, I was like, wow, we're performing pretty well comparatively speaking to airports that are expected to have a different dynamic of data because of the fact that they're different beasts all together with mainline service," he said.
Passengers tend to remember awful flight experiences more so than when things goes smoothly, Turner said. "You always hear the negative, you don't always hear the positive," he said.
Bayfield resident Mike Hannigan, who uses the Durango airport about every other month, said it seems like flights are delayed about half the time for weather or mechanical issues. Those kind of delays could cause real problems for local business travelers, he said.
But on Monday, his flight returned from Denver as scheduled.
"You get lucky sometimes," he said.
Martin, who files every week to locations across the country and around the world, said Durango is without a doubt the most difficult part of his journey. It hits hardest when he's returning home on Friday and sometimes has to spend the night in Denver, Phoenix or divert to Albuquerque, which allows him to drive four hours to wake up Saturday in his own bed.
"The basic rule of thumb is you never, ever, ever book tight connections," he said. "You leave yourself a minimum of two hours, and you're usually pretty good."
Durango doesn't have significant resources to deal with mechanical or weather-related issues, he said. The same person who issues a ticket may move bags onto the plane and do the deicing, he said. But overall, the airport does a reasonable job for its size.
"The frustration is you see one machine out there clearing the runway and you think, 'Jeez, if there were three machines out there we would get this done in a third of the time.'"
Martin, who uses the airport every week and flies around the world, said he's come to accept the situation in Durango.
"If you let it get to you, it will absolutely drive you insane," he said. "Every week is an anxiety situation. You just never know what is going to happen.
"What choice do you have if you want to live in a wonderful place like Durango? You have to make certain compromises."