Sunday, December 31, 2017

Blake Fontenay: Chilly reception to new Pueblo Memorial Airport (KPUB) service

A United Boeing 757 stands on the runway of Pueblo Memorial Airport Friday after being diverted from its destination of Denver International Airport Thursday due to weather. The airliner was awaiting a deicing equipment from Colorado Springs before it could resume service. 

By Blake Fontenay
Editorial Page Editor

I made my first trip back home since moving to Pueblo last summer. Since I was out for a few days, that's part of the reason I didn't have a Pueblo 101 column last week. The rest of the reason is that I had a lot of Christmas-related guest columns that would have seemed out of date on New Year's Eve.

Even in my travels, I was thinking about column ideas, though. That's why when I decided to leave town, I chose the fastest and newest mode of transportation: The new passenger jet service from Pueblo Memorial Airport.

I have a pretty good frame of reference for comparing the Pueblo airport to other transportation options. Within the last year, I've flown to and from both the Denver and Colorado Springs airports. I've also driven halfway across the country with a car piled high with junk that's now gathering dust in my garage and storage shed.

I'll just say the last option is not the best option, unless you're not in a hurry to get anywhere and you've never seen "National Lampoon's Family Vacation."

Obviously, there's some hassle in driving to, parking at and getting through security at the Denver and Colorado Springs airports. I wanted to see if traveling directly out of Pueblo by air was worth the extra cost.

My first observation is that the signs directing people to the Pueblo airport could be a lot better. I realize that if you have lived in Pueblo all of your life, you're probably screaming at your newspaper: "Everyone knows where the airport is."

But not all of us have lived in Pueblo all of our lives. Some new arrivals and tourists could use a little help. And making the airport more easily accessible to newcomers and tourists could bring more business through there.

My second observation is that I've always been told to get to the airport super early -- some people say one or two hours, some even more than that -- but I think that rule can be revised a little in Pueblo's case. I arrived about an hour and a half before my flight was scheduled to leave. I was parked, checked in, cleared through security and sitting at the gate within 10 minutes. Since I was catching the first flight out that morning, I would have appreciated a few extra minutes of sleep.

When I went through security, the screeners took my Christmas presents out of my overnight bag and scanned them individually. I noticed that several other passengers had items removed from their bags and scanned, too. Of course, this isn't a problem when you've only got a handful of people going through the security lines.

Here was my big pet peeve about the experience: That morning, it was snowing lightly as I made the drive to the airport. Once we had boarded the plane, the pilot announced over the public address system that the wings would need to be de-iced before takeoff. Well, fine. Safety first and all that. However, the de-icing truck wasn't working.

So we waited and waited and waited some more. I'm not mad that the truck wasn't working. These things happen. I do think airport officials could have done a better job of anticipating that problem before takeoff. As I mentioned, it was snowing when I drove to the airport. If the flight crew had summoned the de-icing truck sooner, they would have discovered there was a problem sooner so it could have been fixed sooner. Maybe airport officials were aware of the problem sooner, but if that was the case, why did they board us all onto the plane and have us sit in a darkened cabin?

Although the Pueblo-to-Denver flights normally are too short to offer food or beverage service, the flight crew did serve us drinks to keep us from going completely stir crazy. About an hour after the scheduled departure time (and several hours after my alarm clock went off), the plane was de-iced and we were on our way.

The flight itself was quick, comfortable and uneventful. As a bonus, the gate to my connecting flight from Denver was just a short distance from the gate where we landed. My flight home was also uneventful, although my luggage got lost somewhere in Nashville or Denver. In that respect, it was a big advantage only having to drive across town to retrieve my bag rather than having to drive back to one of the big city airports or wait on airport delivery service.

So would I fly out of Pueblo Memorial Airport again? I might, depending on what fares the airports in Denver and Colorado Springs are charging. Although if I do fly local again during the winter months, I may pack a frost scraper.

Story and photo ➤

1 comment:

Jim B said...

Last time we landed at Pueblo in Oct it was a beautiful place with an excellent FBO (Rocky Mountain Flower). I have/had no complaints.

You know, sometimes things do not go as smooth as a greased pig and you have to ride it out. If you were a king then you could fly your own plane, have your own de-icing crew there and deal with your own problems.

They got you in and out safely and that is the only thing that really matters.