WESTERN SAN JUANS – To expand its outlook and engage a larger region, the Telluride Montrose Regional Air Organization announced on Monday it’s rebranding under a new name: Colorado Flights Alliance.
While its core mission to stimulate economic development by attracting and retaining air service to the Montrose and Telluride regional airports remains the same, Colorado Flights Alliance Chief Operating Officer Matt Skinner said the organization is taking an expanded outlook to engage the larger economic region.
“Colorado’s central Western Slope is not just an assortment of individual economies – it is a collection of communities and world class amenities that drive a larger economy,” Skinner said. “As a driver of the regional economy, it is vital that Colorado Flights take a true regional approach in sustaining and growing air service for our residents, businesses, stakeholders and guests.”
Skinner went on to say that officials within the organization have been watching the overall air service trends throughout the country and “regionalization” seems to be the prevailing approach.
“Instead of many small airports in a region, there are several regional hubs,” he said. “On the Western Slope, we have Grand Junction to the north and Durango to the south. In the center we have Montrose acting as the regional center. It only makes sense that Montrose should be a regional jumping off point.”
The organization’s rebranding comes after a particularly successful spring in terms of load capacity into Telluride and Montrose as well as a record number of passengers traveling through Montrose Regional Airport in the month of March. Recording the best month in airport history, a total of 32,061 passengers passed through the Montrose Regional Airport in March and, according to Montrose County spokeswoman Katie Yergensen, the airport is tracking 7,499 passengers ahead of last year for the first quarter.
Those positive passenger numbers come after the declining passenger numbers in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Besides having an extra weekend in March this year, Skinner said the positive numbers this spring are due to the organization concentrating on adding available seats in strategic markets, including the addition of Allegiant Air flights from Phoenix and Oakland. Those Allegiant Air flights also garnered the support of Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Skinner said the organization also worked to increase capacity around holidays while scheduling flights conservatively during slower weeks.
“We believe all of that came together and we were able to hit some good numbers,” Skinner said. “We also worked very hard with the airlines during the season to manage the way flights were filling. They were responsive to our requests for fare specials and worked with us through the season to help fill the flights.”
Colorado Flights Alliance currently partners with United, Delta, American and Allegiant airlines on non-stop winter service to the Montrose Regional Airport from Chicago, Newark, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Oakland, in coordination with Denver-Montrose service, and also supports Denver-Telluride service. Colorado Flights works with United and American on non-stop summer service from Houston and Dallas to Montrose, in coordination with Denver-Montrose service.
Colorado Flights Alliance and the Telluride Tourism Board have also been working with the City of Montrose on various levels of an expanded partnership, including flight support and marketing.
Skinner said Colorado Flights Alliance, Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Allegiant Air are currently in discussions to expand that partnership to once again bring flights from Oakland and Phoenix to Montrose as well as to expand to other carriers and routes.
“The Allegiant flights got off to a slow start in December and January,” he said. “We put in some very concentrated marketing efforts to give them a boost and it was a very effective. We had a solid February and March, especially out of Phoenix, ending on a successful note. We are talking with them currently in regards to next season.”
The air organization’s rebranding also comes after it announced last November that it signed a management services agreement with the Telluride Tourism Board to oversee its operations including personnel supervision, administration, strategic planning, fundraising and marketing efforts.
“The air organization provides access, in and out, for a large portion of Colorado’s western slope, and in turn supports all sectors of the regional economy as well as the whole,” said Telluride Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Michael Martelon. “Colorado Flights is positioned perfectly to bring together the region’s stakeholders in a unified effort.”
Skinner said the organization will have a new website this summer at coloradoflights.org.