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Irregular Increase in St. Louis Flights to Denver Linked to Marijuana Legalization

denverairport.jpg
oddharmonic on flickr
Security at Denver's airport.
Airlines booked 16 percent more flights from St. Louis to Denver since December 1, and number crunchers think marijuana tourism may be behind the boost.

Demand for flights to Denver jumped to 10 percent above the national average this month, peaking at 14 percent during the first week of January, says Patrick Surry, the chief data scientist at the Boston-based travel planning site Hopper.com.

"We started looking at what's going on with Denver," Surry tells Daily RFT. "What we see is that demand in terms of the number of people looking for flights to Denver has gone up a lot since January 1."

See also: All Eyes on Colorado: 4 Reasons St. Louis Is Jealous of Legal Weed (And 1 Reason We're Not)

Demand jumped 16 percent in St. Louis, 30 percent in Kansas City and 32 percent in Omaha in early 2014, according to Surry's findings, whereas traffic matched national averages a year ago.

denvergraph.JPG
Hopper.com
Comparison of weekly search demand from all US origins to Denver vs. all US destinations. Overall, demand for Denver has risen by 6.3 percent since December 1st, with a peak of 14 percent relative demand in the first week of January.
Hopper's researchers considered several explanations behind the nationwide numbers bump.

They started with skiing, since Denver is a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders. But other ski-centric destinations, including Albuquerque, Salt Lake City and Jackson Hole, don't show the same January spike.

"It doesn't seem as though [the increased Denver traffic] is a seasonal thing," Surry says. "It doesn't match the pattern of demand you see for ski vacations. People are planning ski vacations earlier."

Demand for tickets to other ski resorts starts in November, when ski season opens, not in early January.

See also: St. Louisan Owns Marijuana Dispensary in Colorado and Hopes Missouri Legalizes, Too

Surry also considered football as a potential draw. This year's Super Bowl is between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, the two teams from states where pot has been legalized. But Denver's popularity as a travel destination didn't line up with the NFL post-season.

denverplaes.jpg
pawpaw67 on flickr
Planes at Denver International Airport.
Only one thing really matches up: Just as traffic to Denver's airport spiked early this month, the state of Colorado made marijuana legal for most adults.

"We can't say for sure what the cause is, but demand has been going up. It started at the same time the news cycle was going on about marijuana legalization," Surry says. He adds: "It seems like a pretty good case could be made" that weed is the real draw."

St. Louis joins many other U.S. cities in seeing an increase in flight traffic to Denver. Twelve of the top 50 origin cities for Denver flights saw a 25 percent or more boost in traffic, according to Hopper, with Nashville leading the pack with a 63 percent increase.

What's interesting, says Surry, is that the states with atypical demand for Denver flights also have some of the strictest drug laws in the country.

"When you look at our map of those origins, they are all clustered in the Midwest," Surry says. "All those states, other than Minnesota, have strict laws. There's no decriminalization or medical use."

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.



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46 comments
sydneyholst
sydneyholst

what they're flying there, getting high and coming back? cuz it's not coming back with them on the plane. or they're moving there?

Diane Haller
Diane Haller

Frontier Airlines must be flying high these days...no pun intended...well maybe! Non-stop flts STL to DEN!

Bennessy
Bennessy

I'm doubtful this is purely a St. Louis thing.

Jeff Kaufman
Jeff Kaufman

Soon there will be no traveling, except down to your local QT for a dose!

Derek Polston
Derek Polston

I bet the "pot holes" in the streets will get fixed because of it.

John Null
John Null

Probably the same thing that's going to raise the state of Colorado $10 billion in taxes by 2018 that they're going to spend on public schools. The same thing that has created tens of thousands of permanent jobs. The same thing that will allow their police to use their resources intelligently and keep certain non-violent offenders out of prison.

Kelley Watson
Kelley Watson

Could also be that flights are dirt cheap (speaking as someone that is heading there in a few weeks because a roundtrip flight was less than flying to Chicago for the weekend).

Larry Miner
Larry Miner

I'd comment dude, but I'm packing for my trip. did I tell you I was going to Denver?

Pete McAuliffe
Pete McAuliffe

You know those conservative Kansas cops are chomping at the bit for people to cross the border. F Kansas.

Steven Arthur Vandelay
Steven Arthur Vandelay

Legalization is an inevitability across the board. Money trumps all in this country. Shouldn't be illegal in the first place but that is a whole different discussion.

Ron Roberts
Ron Roberts

St. Louis guys have been going to Colorado (and other places of course) for years but on on the plane.... #dummasses

Lauren Kristine
Lauren Kristine

Still- they have been having an incredible snow season, x-games were in in aspen last week and the dew tour was in breckenridge in December... And people are spending their money on vacay now that they have it. Not saying part of the increase is from MJ , but it's gotta be partially snowsports too.

Bill Roth
Bill Roth

Nothing like being HIGHT on the ski slopes I didn't see that tree

Steve Berkemeier
Steve Berkemeier

I predicted Colorado having the best tourist season EVER this summer

Dave Siegel
Dave Siegel

Just return from one o' them Denver trips, Kyle?

Dave Siegel
Dave Siegel

As well as an unexplained increase in altitude on return flights.

Robert A. West
Robert A. West

Much appreciated for the laugh this morning, anyway.

Tony Bologna
Tony Bologna

Can't these douchers just smoke weed at their houses like they always do anyways?

Jeremy Biermann
Jeremy Biermann

Missouri is so absurd about the issue they will likely ban citizens from visiting...if it isn't on the ballot I won't be surprised.

Kyle Brown
Kyle Brown

Robert A. West Bah! My mistake! I did mean Field of Hemp. It's far too early for me to be trying to be witty.

Robert A. West
Robert A. West

Don't you mean Field of Hemp? Or maybe Shoeless Hemp?

Ryan Grelck
Ryan Grelck

Probably doesn't hurt that flights to Denver are regularly around $150 roundtrip.

Kyle Brown
Kyle Brown

"If you legalize it they will come." My favorite quote from Catcher in the Hemp.

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