American Airlines’ 29 Mile Flight From Vail To Aspen

Filed Under: American

American Airlines — or American Eagle, more accurately — has just launched what’s the shortest flight in the country operated by a major airline. As of now the flight is in the schedule through June 1, though presumably it has the potential to be extended beyond then.

American Airlines’ Vail to Aspen flight

For the next several weeks, American Airlines will be operating a flight between Vail and Aspen. The flight covers a direct air distance of just 29 miles, and is blocked at 35 minutes.

The flight takes longer than you’d expect, given the short direct air distance — over the past several days the flight has taken anywhere from 24 to 39 minutes in the air.

The reason it takes so long is because of how mountainous the area is, as well as the directions of the runways, which means a lot more than 29 miles of flying is required.

This Vail to Aspen flight is part of a longer journey between Dallas and Colorado, as a plane flies from Dallas to Vail to Aspen to Montrose to Dallas.

If you want to fly from Vail to Dallas, that means you’ll have quite a journey, as you’ll have to fly via Aspen and Montrose.

Why would American operate this route?

As part of the roughly $50 billion in funding that US airlines got through the CARES Act, they had to agree to several conditions. One of those conditions is that US airlines had to agree to maintain service to all US airports that they previously served.

They didn’t have to maintain all the same routes and frequencies, but at a minimum they needed to maintain at least some service to all airports that previously belonged to their network.

With demand way down, we’re seeing airlines operate all kinds of triangle flights and milk runs in order to meet their obligations while minimizing losses… and that’s how routes like this happen.

Soon US airlines will be allowed to drop service to some markets through an application process, so some of these creative, short routes might not exist for that long.

The shortest flight in the world

Personally the shortest scheduled flight I’ve taken in the US was between Los Angeles and Orange Country, as United Express used to operate that back in the day.

The distance between the two airports is just 36 miles, and it used to be a great way to rack up additional EQMs on mileage runs. Ah, those were the days!

The shortest scheduled flight in the world is between the Scottish islands of Westray and Papa Westray — the flight covers a distance of 1.7 miles, and takes just about a minute. Suffice to say that this flight is on my bucket list.

Bottom line

It sure is interesting to see some of the routes that have emerged as a result of CARES Act requirements. Through at least June 1, 2020, American will be operating a flight between Vail and Aspen, in order to maintain service to both airports.

Alaska Airlines has also been operating some creative tag flights in order to maintain service to all airports.

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

  1. Perhaps, there is another reason. True, air distance is only 29 miles, but the alternative – driving by car takes over 100 miles & 2 hours according to Google Maps.
    I can easily imagine that for 45 USD one way, American will be able to sell at least some tickets to vacationers from either Aspen or Vail (provided those didn’t arrive by private jets)

  2. Took the shortest flight in the US (until 2004, of course) between EFD and IAH (26 miles) a number of times. It was free if you were connecting, and free parking! Way better than the 50 min drive to IAH.

  3. United operates a route between RSW-EYW now which is pretty cool. The whole route is ORD-RSW-EYW-RSW-ORD.

  4. I’m booked on EGE-ASE-MTJ-DFW this upcoming Sunday. Haven’t been this excited to fly AA (even if Skywest) in ages.

    Paul, wow I didn’t realize that CO Express used to fly IAH-EFD! I knew there were IAH-HOU flights back in the day.

  5. Honestly the RDU-CHS route that Alaska is operating right now would be super convenient for Raleigh passengers long-term (not a flight normally operated by any airline). Granted, only a four hour drive, but still a nice alternative.

  6. The shortest scheduled flight I ever took spent a minute and a half in the air on a DC-3 in 1987. It was operated by AirKenya Aviation. The reason for the short flight was to hop between two airstrips in the Masai Mara that were separated by a river, which (they said), took an hour and half to drive. (See entry 249 in the Encyclopedia of African Airlines, available on Google Books).

  7. JetBlue is flying a tag flight between Sarasota and Orlando. It has to be one of the shortest flights in the country right now.

  8. Am I alone in worrying about CFIT on this route, particularly on bad weather days, as it is a novel route that will be flown by less experienced regional pilots? I don’t worry about the safety of commercial air travel generally, but this is not an easy place to fly.

  9. @Evan – Skywest has been flying CR7s into ASE for years. There’s nothing new here about that part of it. EGE and MTJ aren’t particularly difficult airports.

    ASE can be subject to more weather delays/cancellations than EGE, but that’s more of a fall/winter issue.

  10. @ Martin:

    Colorado resident here – I’m not sure what you did to get Google Maps to tell you that “driving by car takes over 100 miles & 2 hours” between ASE and EGE; but that’s wrong.

    ASE to EGE by road is 65 miles and takes about 1 hour 15 minutes in normal conditions.

    The city/resort of Vail is another 35 road miles (40 minutes) east of the EGE airport. People flying into Vail would have to make this drive regardless. Driving from ASE to Vail takes you right by the EGE airport – so that last 35 road miles is part of the trip no matter what.

  11. When I moved to the bay area in the mid 70s, TWA had a flight scheduled between SFO and OAK (all of 11 miles by air) — OAK was a stop on a flight to/from the east. I believe UA had a similar flight in the late 70s — I recall that when UA returned from a strike in 1979, it offered a half fare coupon for any UA flight you took. The OAK-SFO flight booked it very quickly.

  12. @Evan @Bob

    there’s an air crash investigation episode titled dangerous approach about a continental express plane in the 1980s that was flying from Denver to Durango.

  13. It would be interesting to see which airports get dropped once September rolls around. I’m sure it’ll be a blood bath. Hopefully it’ll just be a drop in frequency not routes.

  14. Back in the good old Continental days, you could easily pick up segments in Houston by flying Bush Intercontinental to Ellington Field. Until 2004, it was the shortest fixed-wing route flown in the US at only 25 nmi (46 km). Flight times were as short as six minutes, depending on direction of departure.

  15. @D3KingAmerican

    What’s that got to do with ASE or EGE? DGO is a completely different airport.

  16. @Evan

    @Bob is correct… ASE is a tricky approach that pilots need special training/qualification to fly commercially.

  17. I’m booked for Monday out of ASE! My upgrades cleared at the EXP window for all of my outbound flights! So looking forward to this trip! The aviation geek in me is super excited. I’m going to spend a few days in Scottsdale at the Andaz and then take the return home. Since I haven’t been on a plane in 2 months, that makes me as excited for this trip as any I have been on in a long time.

  18. @Dan

    DRO not DGO. DGO is in Mexico. I referenced the incident because it took place in Colorado.

  19. In the ‘80’s I took a flight from sfo to oak on United. They were giving coupons for free flights on a full fare RT. This was a cheap full fare at the time and flight was packed

  20. Prepare to have thixk skin because this is going to be very controversial. I will not judge anyone for their choices. Personally, I am not certain the drastic measures that have been taken are the correct course of action. My husband has a compromised immune system so we have been very conservative. I do believe a number of people who have classified as having died from COVID may have had significant health issues and perhaps actually died from those issues.

  21. @Jeff – I hadn’t heard of this one, but I’ve always wondered why JetBlue didn’t offer a SRQ tag from either MCO or FLL as it’d offer a lot of Latin American connections that otherwise require driving.

  22. Don’t forget CO’s flight from IAH to Ellington Field (EFD) back in the day. I believe that was 28 miles and operated a few times each day. I’ve taken it a few times from MSY which put me a little closer visiting my family but also an extra 500 miles credit. Unfortunately if there’s a delay…..

  23. Victoria (YYJ) to YVR (Vancouver) is usually 11-12 minutes on a Westjet Encore or Air Canada Expresss Q400. Flights every hour or more in normal times.

  24. Youse guys are not well-traveled. I assume the shortest flight in the US is Mokulele’s hop between MKK and LUP, operated several times per day and covering a straight-line distance of 9 miles although traveling west they normally have to circle at both ends – still only 6 minutes in the air. I’ve done it twice. Although both airports are on the same island there is no road connection.

  25. We took a private shuttle from Beaver Creek (right next to Vail) to Aspen in January for 6 with all our ski gear, 8 suitcases etc and it was $950 and about 4 hours. This would have been a bargain.

  26. Back in 2012, my wife’s LHR-SIN flight was diverted to Batam in Indonesia for poor weather. Once the storm cleared, they flew BTH-SIN, 19 miles – in an A380. Qantas recorded the block time to be 33 minutes.

    Must be a contender for shortest international flight in the largest passenger plane. Unfortunately, I didn’t check to see if they landed from the North, which would have meant flying over a third country’s airspace as well.

    My shortest scheduled flight was between two channel islands in the UK – Guernsey and Alderney – 25 miles in a Trislander.

  27. Another short flight honorable mention is ABE-PHL. This route has operated for years, while others have come and gone, so this one must win the longevity award, at least in the continental US.

  28. Even more obscure is a United’s “flight” from EWR to ABE. It’s actually a hotel style shuttle bus. You board the bus from an actual gate, drive across the tarmac, through a security gate and onto the airport access roads!

  29. What about direct flights btw Nevis (NEV) & St. Kitts (SKB)? Cape Air, Winair, Seaborne Airlines…
    17.44 miles
    0.03 hrs air time

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