Commercial air service will resume at Telluride Regional Airport (TEX) Wednesday, according to Colorado Flights Alliance COO Matt Skinner, when San Francisco-based airline Boutique Air begins offering two daily flights to and from Telluride and Denver.
“We’ve been working on it for a while,” he said. “We’re really pleased to be able to get together with Boutique. I think they’ll be a great fit for our destination.”
Such service ceased in March after provider Great Lakes Airlines terminated all flight operations due to a shortage of pilots, according to a company news release circulated at the time. That was the second time that Great Lakes had pulled out of TEX. The airline discontinued flights to and from TEX on Sept. 16, 2014, also due to a pilot shortage. Great Lakes had served Telluride for 17 years prior to the 2014 stoppage. It resumed operations in December 2016.
Skinner said the alliance was familiar with Boutique, given previous service searches and the airline’s reputation throughout the West.
“They’ve really proven themselves in Western towns over the last couple years as a reliable carrier and providing a great product,” he said.
TEX departure times are 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively, while planes arriving from Denver International Airport will land at 12:30 p.m. and 8:50 p.m.
Skinner called the flight schedule the “best of both worlds” since travelers can “get in and out of Telluride with the most available connections in Denver.” The schedule will fluctuate with the seasons, he added.
“That schedule will flex with our busy season and our shoulder season. The baseline is two flights a day,” he said. “We hope to add more during our busier times of the year. The schedule should remain relatively consistent.”
Currently, one-way rates are $149 for non-refundable economy seats; the refundable rate is $199. Skinner said that price will eventually increase.
“We got some solid rates to start,” he said. “The rates will come up as market demand dictates.”
Boutique, which also serves Cortez Municipal Airport with flights to Phoenix, is known for having a “tiered pricing system,” Skinner explained, which includes varying rates for certain seats. For example, the first two spots on an eight-seat plane from Cortez to Phoenix were once $60 one way.
Skinner said the Boutique deal was finalized over the past month, after talking with three “solid” providers. He added that the air service market is “stronger” now compared to years past.
“Previously, we hadn’t found very many options out there for carriers that would fit,” he said. “This time, in the last six to 12 months, we found a healthier regional airline industry, so we’re very pleased with the options that we’ve been able to search through.”
Another “key” piece in finding a new provider was a partnership with a major airline, Skinner said. Boutique is a partner of United Airlines, so people can book Telluride flights through United and participate in United’s MileagePlus frequent flyer program. (TEX will be added to the United website — united.com — soon, according to Skinner.)
“Point-to-point service to Denver would be valuable in its own right, but really where it becomes viable and truly valuable is having access to one of the major carrier networks,” he said.
As of press time Friday afternoon, flights could be booked through boutiqueair.com and kayak.com.
“The flights are bookable as we speak,” Skinner confirmed.
Boutique CEO Shawn Simpson expressed his excitement for the deal, calling Telluride a “world class destination,” in a news release.
“We are thrilled to be connecting (Telluride) to our Denver International hub,” he said. “Our strong partnerships with both Colorado Flights Alliance as well as United Airlines have paved the way to this launch. We look forward to making it a great success.”
Skinner said the TEX service will be beneficial to visitors and locals alike, whether they’re traveling for work or play. He explained that he has family coming to town in late September and they’re making plans to fly into TEX, even though they usually use Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) — another Telluride destination airport for which the alliance keeps stats.
According to winter stats, MTJ accounts for a majority of overall air access (incoming flights) to the Telluride area, while TEX accounted for just under 3 percent.