PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Southern Airways just recently started round trip service out of Pueblo Memorial Airport to Denver on the 15th. The commuter airline is now offering these daily flights in an effort to connect Pueblo to its nearest large hub.
The City of Pueblo was enticing for the commuter airline, being that Pueblo has been designated by the government as an essential air service market. Meaning, it connects smaller-served communities to nearby large markets.
"There's a government service called essential air service that identifies Pueblo as a community that should be connected to the nearest large airport, which is Denver," Pueblo Memorial Airport Director of Aviation Greg Pedroza said. "So the government subsidizes this service to provide that connectivity to the community. So it's already been identified that Pueblo needs an airline, and now Southern Airways has stepped up to fill that void."
Also, the airline already operates out of Denver, which is a hub to connect to other cities around the country.
"It's a market that fits our criteria for success, in that it's within an existing footprint," Southern Airways Chief Commercial Officer Mark Cestari said. "We already fly to Denver, so we already have our own staff and gates there. It's also an up-and-coming area, which we like."
Previously, Skywest operated this route on a larger aircraft but offered limited flights. Southern believes their method of more frequent flights per day on a smaller aircraft will be more enticing for passengers.
"The previous airline only had 12 flights a week, 2 flights a day Monday through Friday, and 1 on the weekend," Cestari said. "We have double that number. So you have more choices now."
The aircraft is a King Air Super 200, offering a private-style flying experience. With inexpensive fairs of under $100 each way and between 3-4 flights a day.
"The experience is comparable to private flying," Cestari said. "You have a feeling like its your airplane. You board in just a couple minutes, you're on quickly, you're off quickly. Compared to the drive and unpredictable traffic between Pueblo and DIA, it's a breeze."
The flights begin taking off around 5:40 in the morning and come back around 9 at night. They're timed at 55 minutes but typically land in much less time.
"We specialize in servicing small communities with frequent flights to keep them connected to the national system," Cestari said. "Our model is smaller markets, smaller aircraft, and more frequency. We find that the public likes that, they have more choices."
Southern Airways has partnered with United, American, and Alaska Airlines so passengers can book their flights between Pueblo and their final destination on any of the 3 airlines on a single transaction and their bags will transfer automatically.
"Getting a flight from Pueblo to Denver for whatever reason, whether it's vacation or business," Pedroza said. "The opportunity to connect in Denver and go anywhere else in the world is there through this service."
Southern Airways believes its model will attract travelers in the Southern Colorado area looking to get to Denver as a final destination in place of driving to DIA, or beyond.
"So far so good, I think we've seen the flights have a number of passengers," Pedroza said. "People are taking it and enjoying the convenience."
To book a flight, visit the Southern Airways website or the website of one of the 3 partner airlines.