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Taos Air: The Airline by Skiers, for Skiers
It’s that time of year again as airlines are ramping up their flights in and out of popular ski destinations like Vail, Colo.; Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Mammoth Lakes, Calif. One small but upscale ski town, however, isn’t served by any major airline, inspiring the creation of its own airline.
Taos, N.M. is a small town in the north-central region of New Mexico and is home to only about 5,700 as of 2010, which more than doubles during the winter months. But this small town and even smaller village of Taos Ski Valley is home to one of Americas’ newest airlines, Taos Air.
Taos Air is a virtual airline that was founded in 2018 and began initial operations on Dec. 20, 2018, from Taos Regional Airport operating public charter flights to Austin and Dallas. The virtual airline is not virtual in the sense that it resides online or exists digitally, but rather that Taos Air is just a name and doesn’t directly operates the aircraft that fly on its behalf.
The airline is owned by Taos Ski Valley Inc., the same company that runs the main resort in town. The ski resort pays for maintenance and upkeep of its two aircraft, 30-seat Fairchild Dornier 328 jet’s, and the town provides terminal access, marketing, de-icing fluids, and hangar space.
During its initial season of operation, the carrier gave the responsibility of operating and selling the flights to Cincinnati-based air charter company Ultimate Air Shuttle, one of the U.S.’s largest operators of the Dornier 328 Jet. The flights were also operated by Ultimate Air Shuttle’s pilots and crew.
The Taos-based carrier prides itself on offering a private jet experience, at a commercial price. Included in the price of the ticket is a round trip shuttle between the airport and Taos Ski Valley, two checked pieces of luggage or ski/snowboard bags up to 46 pounds, in-flight beverages and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream served onboard. The airline also offers rentals for those that don’t want to lug their skis and/or snowboards all the way to New Mexico.
Also in the minds of the airline executives is the environment as, in partnership with B Corp partner Native Energy, the airline has maintained a completely carbon neutral airline, meaning CO2 emissions are offset by 100 percent.
In March and April 2019, the town of Taos voted and approved respectively, $550,000 worth of grants for the carrier to continue service throughout the summer months that would promote tourism in the region. Despite the approval of the grants, however, Taos Ski Valley vice president Chris Stagg announced that summer flights would be cancelled due to a lack of available aircraft and crew from the charter company. The company fell completely silent after April 2019, leaving many to wonder if flights would ever recommence.
Nothing was heard from the airline until October 2019 when the resumption of flights to Austin and Dallas was announced for December 2019 through the winter ski season until March 2020. Although this time the operator of the flights would be Hawthorne, Calif. based carrier-Advanced Air, another public charter operator, still using its two Dornier 328 jet’s.
On Nov. 20, 2019, it was announced that the airline would begin service to two new destinations for the coming winter ski season; Hawthorne, Calif. and Carlsbad, Calif.
It’s not often that a new airline, especially one of this size, manages to succeed in the complex world that is the airline industry, but sometimes, they do.
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