State of the Airport Shuttle Industry in Vail Going into 2022

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The previous year proved difficult for Vail Valley shuttle service businesses. We are cautiously hopeful about the 2021/2022 winter season, however there are many unanswered questions and numerous labor, supply, and logistics difficulties to be overcome. Vail’s airport transportation industry is an intriguing gauge for many of the other industries here; after all, guests must first arrive. Airport shuttle services like ours are popular among our most well-heeled international visitors, who appreciate the ease and security they give.

Since its inception in 2012, Vail’s luxury shuttle service providers, like Blue Sky Limo, have sprung up all over the mountain town. The private airport shuttle industry in Vail is unique in that, while these firms are direct rivals, they also create partnerships and assist one another when one lacks sufficient drivers or vehicles to meet client demand. In these cases, we refer clients to one another and generally look out for one another’s best interests, even while we compete for business. This is the optimal partnership for our clients and guests.

When it comes to providing world-class service and catering to our most important visitors, we have a strong relationship with our hotel partners.

2020 began to pressure Vail airport shuttle operators’ business operations. Covid-19 travel limitations and Vail Resorts’ mountain policy were significant (and entirely justified) obstacles that all Vail Valley companies encountered. However, the ongoing epidemic and its aftermath have presented our sector with a unique set of challenges that are still with us in 2022.

Labor shortages:

As numerous other firms in Vail can confirm, there is a persistent and severe labor shortage. We just cannot recruit enough drivers to accommodate all reservations. This past summer saw a significant increase in business, which we hope will translate into a very busy 2021/2022 season. However, all the Vail airport shuttle operators are severely lacking the number of drivers we anticipate will be required to accommodate all the guests we hope to bring this winter.

The prevalent belief (and hope) among business owners across the nation was that, after the expanded unemployment benefits expired, there would be a scramble to fill all open positions. Unfortunately, this hope has yet to materialize. Despite offering numerous incentives, restaurants, resorts, retailers, and shuttle operators are still severely understaffed; this is a very concerning trend for all of us.

As a result of the termination of increased unemployment benefits, we are receiving fewer fraudulent job applications. We have received dozens of employment applications that were reviewed, followed up on, and even scheduled interviews for, only to find out later that these “applicants” were only trying to fulfill their job search requirements with the Department of Labor in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits, and had no intention of attending the interview or accepting the position. Thankfully, we are not receiving more “resumes”; rather, we are not receiving enough candidates overall.

Affordable housing is a major obstacle in Vail Valley that contributes to the labor shortage here. Former employees and seasonal workers have informed us that there is nowhere for them to live in Vail, therefore they are moving to more cheap areas. There, they may earn the same amount of money yet pay less rent. In lieu of signing a lease with a seasonal worker, local landlords are opting to “Airbnb” their properties to tourists for a premium price.

Regardless of the causes, the current labor shortage has a direct influence on the private airport shuttle industry and numerous other Vail Valley companies.

Rising Equipment Costs

The pandemic has disrupted many supply chains across many industries and the full repercussions of this occurrence have not yet been fully realized. For private airport shuttle businesses in Vail, the most direct (and damaging) impact has been the sky rocketing cost of new vehicles to expand and renew our fleets. Blue Sky Limo, utilizes a world-class fleet of luxury Suburban’s and Escalades for our private Vail to Denver Shuttle service. The price for these vehicles has gone through the roof due to chip shortages impacting car manufacturers particularly hard. On average the costs of brand new Suburban’s and Escalades have risen almost 25% from 2019. What’s worse is the order backlog all dealerships are currently facing; the average wait time for a new vehicle to be delivered is 6-9 months.

Car Maintenance Issues:

Scheduled services are extremely difficult to plan due to the manpower scarcity, which is a concern for all businesses who rely on dealership maintenance. It is getting increasingly difficult to locate a dealership in Colorado with sufficient technicians to meet the needs of fleet operators.

Due to the lack of available vehicles, “loaner” cars, which were commonplace before to the pandemic, are no longer available. Once a vehicle is delivered to the repair shop, we are without it for the duration of the repairs.

Fleet repairs and maintenance are an integral element of the daily operations of airport shuttle companies. Extended wait periods and a dearth of loaner automobiles have become a concern within our sector.

Raising Prices on our Guests:

Our industry will likely experience its greatest challenge over the upcoming season due to the higher rates we must pass on to our customers. For the upcoming season, the labor shortages, increasing vehicle expenses, insurance costs, and maintenance costs have necessitated major price increases for those of us in the private airport shuttle industry. Despite the fact that we have many clients for whom price is not an issue and for whom an annual vacation in Vail is a treat they will not deny regardless of cost, there are many for whom the increased expense of transportation may prevent them from visiting Vail this year. And this is a fact that all firms operating in the Vail Valley must face.

Vail’s 2021-2022 winter season will be impacted by the pandemic’s ongoing issues to a degree that has yet to be determined.

The airport transportation industry, which in a way are the Valley’s “front line workers” remain cautiously optimistic, but still face many challenges and an uncertain future.


Nikita A Beriozkin, is the Director of Operations for Blue Sky Limo Vail, Colorado.

Blue Sky Limo | Vail Airport Shuttle
1300 N Frontage Rd W
Vail, CO 81658
(970) 376-7849