"As far as load factors, we did very well last summer," said Scott Stewart, Director of Air Service for TMRAO, of the Montrose-Houston flights. The flights have been running since 2003, with this summer being the second year for twice-daily flights. The Continental flights on the fifty-seat ERJ145 jet aircraft are guaranteed, meaning the TMRAO has negotiated with the airline to bring in the flights. If the flights do not produce a certain level of revenue, TMRAO makes up the difference.
"This service was heavily flown last summer demonstrating the need for us to continue with these flights to provide convenient airline access for our regional travelers," said Tom Hess, president of the board of TMRAO.
Flights depart from Montrose at 8:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., arriving in Houston at 12:17 p.m. and 2:52 p.m., respectively. Flights depart from Houston at 9:15 a.m. and 6 p.m., arriving Montrose 10:50 a.m. and 7:34 p.m., respectively.
To book a flight, visit www.continental.com or call Continental at 800/523-3273.
The Montrose airport also currently runs five daily non-stop flights from Denver on United Express. "That's down one flight from last summer," said Stewart. "That's not due to lack of usage, all the flights last summer were pretty full, but it's a challenge right now with airlines in the process of consolidating. We're very challenged with trying to increase service to meet demand, let alone maintain service.
"We've done what we can for this summer in trying to bring new services," said Stewart, "but due to conditions of the industry we were not able to bring additional flights."
The "conditions of the industry" Stewart refers to are the efforts of large carriers to increase revenues by redistributing their planes to more lucrative markets. "A lot of mainline carriers the Americans, the Continentals are putting a lot of their planes in the desert," he said. "A lot of the time the regional jets," those used in the Telluride/Montrose airports, "get pulled into bigger markets than ours.
"We're hopeful for next summer, and are starting now to pursue additional opportunities," said Stewart. "The services we presently have are very full."