TEX more flights

A 30-seat Dornier 328JET, complete will full in-flight services, is the aircraft used for the daily Denver flights at TEX. (Courtesy photo) 

In April 1979, singer Ozzy Osbourne learned he’d been fired from seminal heavy metal band Black Sabbath, which took the world by storm throughout the decade with their original brand of down-tuned, doom-laden music. Osbourne, with no guarantee of success, decided to embark on a solo career, quickly releasing two records — “Blizzard of Ozz” (1980) and “Diary of a Madman” (1981) — after the split. They were both massive hits. One Ozzy original, “Flying High Again,” seemed to recognize his bounce back to the top.

Over the past two years, commercial service at Telluride Regional Airport (TEX) had experienced a series of setbacks and delays, with previous provider Great Lake Airlines ceasing all operations nationally in March 2018. Along came Denver Air Connection, which began daily commercial jet service to and from Denver in May 2019. It’s safe to say Ozzy wasn’t singing about such service in his 1981 hit, but thanks to Denver Air Connection, TEX service is, yes, flying high again. The interline partner of United Airlines began offering a second daily Denver flight this month, a sign that TEX’s first-ever commercial jet service is doing well.

Matt Skinner, COO of Colorado Flights Alliance, explained that the service will continue through March and resume during the summer, beginning the weekend of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (June 18-21) through Labor Day. The decision to add a second daily flight had been in the works for the last couple months, he added.

“It was something we wanted to do, but we did take a look at early season performance and bookings, and made a decision a little while ago,” he said.

Skinner also reported that early winter numbers, which include both TEX and Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) stats, are up compared to last year, and that trend will continue through the end of the 2019-20 ski season.

“February’s been strong from the start, so we’ll have some gains there, but March (bookings) had been pretty sluggish,” he explained. “We had seen flat bookings up until January, which is the traditional time people book for February and March, and we saw it pick up nicely from there. March is now a couple points ahead year over year, so we’re looking at a solid spring here. … Snow always helps.”

The partnership with Denver Air Connection has helped stabilize regional service, making the destination more accessible.

“We believe we found a great partner in Denver Air and we look forward to working with them for the long term,” Skinner said.

In other airport news, CDOT Division of Aeronautics recently released the 2020 Colorado Aviation Economic Impact Study (CEIS), including the TEX report. The study, which is conducted and released every five to seven years, revealed that TEX contributed $51.88 million to the statewide economic impact, including 414 jobs, according to 2018 numbers.

“I think what this does it set the bar. I’m more excited about the next one that will reflect, hopefully, the robust activity and the new jet service,” airport manager Kenny Maenpa said, adding that he believes those numbers will only go up.

“I think we’ve stabilized. I think having jet service with a 30-passenger jet, which is something this airport has never enjoyed, I think it’s enhanced the reliability and the commitment to stabilize good service in and out of TEX,” he said. “I think 2019 was a very good year for us, and we’re looking to build on that success, especially regarding commercial service.”

Skinner explained that the alliance is currently conducing a more in-depth, local economic impact study that will be finished and released within the next month or so.