With the loss of a major airline and the threat of losing airline guarantee funding, the Telluride-Montrose Regional Air Organization experienced a bumpy ride in 2011 and was The Watch’s No. 2 story of that year.
This past year has delivered a much smoother ride for the air organization, with new summer and winter flights secured, as well as a new low-cost carrier, in the wake of a TMRAO reorganization.
The first positive news for the region came in June, when TMRAO officials announced that they had negotiated new direct flights with both United and American airlines for summer service. Flights between Houston and Montrose were set for Wednesdays and Saturdays, while American airlines offered daily flights between Montrose and Dallas.
“A year ago, we didn't believe we would be able to acquire summer flights from Houston and Dallas for summer 2012 due to many factors, including flight program cost increases and TMRAO's limited financial resources,” TMRAO Executive Director Scott Stewart said. “Our local governments stressed the importance of having regional year-round access, so we worked very hard to secure these flights. Additional financial assistance from our local governments and businesses made this boost to our air program possible, which, I believe, will bring a direct and significant economic impact to the region.”
Stewart reiterated that TMRAO was still operating in a challenging airline service environment, with many small communities losing air service. But, he hinted, a new, low-cost carrier could be serving Montrose soon.
With financial support from entities throughout the region, including Crested Butte Mountain Resort, TMRAO announced in September that Allegiant Air will be providing biweekly flights from Montrose to both Oakland and Phoenix starting on Dec. 15. The new flights, adding an impressive 10,000 additional seats to TMRAO’s winter air service, should boost local tourism and the area’s economy.
Along with that news, TMRAO in November announced that it had signed a management services agreement with the Telluride Tourism Board to manage its operations – including personnel supervision, administration, strategic planning, fundraising and marketing efforts.
The move not only signified that the two entities would work more collaboratively and efficiently together as one, but it was a step toward a more regional effort to bring visitors to Telluride, Ouray, Ridgway, Montrose, Gunnison and Crested Butte.
TMRAO Board President Dirk dePagter emphasized that the reorganization was in the best interest of the entire region, especially in light of trends in the travel industry.
“The world is shrinking so rapidly,” he said. “We need to be more cooperative within the region and the only way to be more cooperative in the region is if we are joined at the hip here locally. How can we communicate with Montrose, which is vital because of the air and economic base they bring, if we aren’t on the same page here?
“We need to be lockstep with those guys.”