It has been 680 days since a commercial airline flew into the Telluride Airport.
But the drought of passenger flights to Telluride is coming to an end. On Tuesday, Colorado Flights Alliance announced that it has completed a deal with Great Lakes Airlines to reinstate year-round commercial air service to the airport beginning Dec. 17.
Great Lakes will partner with United Airlines to book flights to and from Denver International Airport. Matt Skinner, chief operating officer of the alliance, said Great Lakes is planning an average of 10 flights per week: one per day during slower periods and two or more per day during busier times of the year.
“Guests from around the world can once again book flights directly into the Telluride Airport, which sits just 10 minutes from town and the ski slopes,” Skinner said in a news release. “Commercial air service to TEX is hugely important to both visitors and residents alike, and we have been diligently working on its return for the past two years, exploring every possible option.”
Great Lakes served Telluride continually for 17 years, but discontinued its service on Sept. 16, 2014, amid a pilot shortage.
“Ultimately, we are more than pleased to have our original partner, who knows the airport and the operation, back flying here,” Skinner said.
In a follow-up interview Tuesday, Skinner said Great Lakes will be serving the route with its 19-seat Beechcraft 1900 twin-engine turboprop aircraft. The aircraft specializes in airports with short runways.
Colorado Flights Alliance, a regional partnership, actively works to secure commercial air service to Telluride and Montrose. Skinner said more news about increased service to the area will be forthcoming.
“We do have a couple of other announcements coming, some added capacity in Dallas and Phoenix (to Montrose),” he said, saying that specifics will be revealed in the near future when the full 2016-17 winter schedule is released.
As for Great Lakes, Skinner said that flights will be diverted to Montrose when warranted by Telluride’s weather conditions. Previously, Great Lakes diverted its Denver-to-Telluride flights to Durango.
The flights alliance struck its deal with Great Lakes. The airline’s partnership with United Airlines means that flights and their national and international connections can be booked through United’s website. However, the Telluride-Denver route also can be secured through Great Lakes at www.FlyGreatLakes.com.
“We look forward to the restart of scheduled airline service from our Denver hub in December,” Doug Voss, CEO of Great Lakes, said in the news release. The airline will install advanced avionics, or electronic equipment, into its fleet to improve performance, the press release said.
Tickets for flights between Denver and Telluride will be available for sale sometime in the next few weeks.
Jon Dwight, chairman of the board of the Telluride Regional Airport Authority, said the airport will be ready for action come Dec. 17.
“We’re working with the Transportation Security Administration to get the security system back up,” he said.
Dwight added that the board is excited to have commercial service back at the Telluride airport, describing the announcement as good news both for the community and its visitors.
“Getting commercial service back to the Telluride Airport has been a primary focus of the (board) and management for the past two years,” he said. “This is what the Telluride community has been looking for, and we are pleased that both Colorado Flights and the Telluride Airport have been able to deliver.”