Denver Air Connection chosen to serve Cortez Municipal Airport – The Journal

Denver Air Connection will be the new commercial airline serving Cortez Municipal Airport. (Courtesy picture)

The twin-prop aircraft has increased passenger and cargo capacity over the previous carrier

Cortez Municipal Airport will have a new airline this fall that offers a larger aircraft.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has chosen Denver Air Connection to provide essential air service from Cortez to Denver International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

The contract begins October 1 and ends September 30, 2024. The airline will provide 12 weekly round trips to DIA and 12 weekly round trips to Phoenix.

EAS contracts pay qualified airlines a federal subsidy to operate in rural areas to provide residents with a link to major transportation hubs. Cortez is one of three EAS airports in the state along with Alamosa and Pueblo.

The city of Cortez campaigned for Denver Air Connection, citing its reputation for reliability, type of aircraft, and ability to increase passenger service.

“The city is thrilled to welcome Denver Air Connection,” Cortez Mayor Rachel Medina said in a statement. “Safety and reliable service will be a great asset to our community and to visitors who come to enjoy our area.”

Denver Air will replace Boutique Air, which has held the EAS contract for Cortez since 2015. The federal subsidy for the Denver Air contract is $6.4 million.

The new airline service will fly a nine-seat Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner twin-prop aircraft flown by two pilots. Boutique Air uses an eight-passenger Pilatus PC-12 single-propeller aircraft.

EAS communities are involved in the air carrier selection process in partnership with the Ministry of Transport, which makes the final decision.

In a press release, the DOT said Denver Air Connection’s proposal meets the criteria for selecting air carriers the department must consider.

“Denver Air Connection has received extensive community support from Montezuma County, the City of Cortez and several organizations related to tourism and economic development,” the statement said. “Additionally, it has an interline agreement with United Airlines, it has provided reliable air service in other EAS communities, it has included a marketing plan in its proposal, and the Department finds its service and subsidy levels reasonable. .”

Denver Air Connection will connect the many Four Corners communities, including the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation, to two major hubs, maintaining access to the national air transportation system.

Cortez Airport Manager Jeremy Patton said the new airline is a good fit for the area and has the potential to grow with the community.

He said Denver Air’s Metroliner actually had an 18-passenger capacity, but was modified to nine seats to meet commercial airline criteria for Cortez Airport.

“It’s very spacious, with a lot more cargo space for luggage, bikes, skis and golf bags,” he said.

Denver Air has 25 years of experience in the Rockies.

The airport is working on upgrades to qualify for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 139 airport certification, which would allow the airport additional funding and an aircraft with 10 or more seats.

The project includes improvements to airport technology and fire suppression.

Pending FAA approval, Patton said, Denver Air is ready to use a 30-person twin-engine jet for commercial service at Cortez Airport.

Denver Air’s new contract will increase daily round trips to Phoenix to two per day from one due to the destination’s growing popularity, Patton said.

Denver Air has committed to paying $20,000 in annual advertising costs until boarding goals are met. The airline was chosen among other Southern Airways Express finalists.

Jon Coleman, Business Development Manager and Denver Air pilot, submitted comments during the community feedback portion of the review process.

“For 25 years, we’ve been flying over the Rockies in all weathers, and much of our piloting experience comes from single-pilot operations in the Rockies,” he said.

Coleman touted Denver Air’s 97% on-time reliability rating and an even higher overall reliability rating.

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Melissa C. Keyes