The Community Flights Story – The Beginning
Community Flights began in 2011. I, (Scott Stewart) was working for the Telluride Montrose Regional Air Organization (TMRAO). (FYI, TMRAO has since changed its name to Colorado Flights Alliance).
First of all, the severe national recession had finally affected the Telluride/Montrose air program. At the time, I was working with the Executive Director of the Telluride Tourism Board. Due to the recession impacts, we were asking for incremental funds from supporting community entities. Consequently, we wanted these funds to sustain flight capacity levels. Additionally, the funding would help the air organization better navigate the economic downturn. Telluride and Montrose were already struggling like many towns across the nation. Finally, we felt sustaining air service levels would help the region make it through this rough patch a little better economically.
Key Air Service Benefits to Community’s
I knew that air service was a key driver to a local tourism economy highly dependent on air service. This was because Telluride is many miles from a major highway or large population center in rural Southwestern Colorado. As a result, potential visitor access to the region was critical. Another reason, fewer visitors would mean visitor spending fewer dollars in the region, if air seat capacity dipped too far. The result would be a likely increase in unemployment and an increase in small businesses going out of business.
“Visitors that don’t get to the community can’t spend money in the community!”
The Community Flights Story – Circa 2011
I came to understand that many people in the region didn’t fully understand the air program, while preparing funding pitch presentations. They didn’t understand the cause and effect of air seat capacity and seat sales on the local economic health. I also realized many communities didn’t know how to work with the airlines to optimize passenger sales. Some communities also don’t know how to leverage air service for community economic benefit. I further feel that airline goals don’t always fully mesh with Community Air Service goals. Additionally, there was often a culture and language gap between communities and airlines. I felt that some of these communities didn’t have knowledgeable professional assistance to bridge this Airline and Community language gap.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Air Service in Tourism Markets
I had seen the differences between good tourism years and bad tourism years as well as the impacts on some of my friends. First of all, their employment and compensation were highly dependent on the success or failure of the winter flights. I concluded, that having a strong community air service was extremely important to me. I focused on how I could help communities produce a successful air program. I realized that many communities did not have professional assistance to help direct the community air service effort. I determined I wanted to help more than just one community professionally, at this point. I wanted to help multiple communities maximize the benefits they derived from their air service.
The Creation of Community Flights
In 2012 I formally registered Community Flights in the state of Colorado. My goal for moving on from TMRAO was to work helping multiple communities with their air service efforts.
First, I wanted to finish the job at TMRAO. I continued with TMRAO through the funding process. We had a successful fundraising outcome. This allowed for a reset in some of the capacity lost in the previous two years. Montrose and Telluride were enroute to having a better year based on air service driven economic activity. By late fall in 2012, we expected the winter to produce increased flight occupancy and increased flight revenues. This result would put the air program back on a better revenue guarantee payout situation. TMRAO was back on both a solid financial and performance foundation. I then tendered my resignation due to this successful program reset. I committed to devote my efforts full-time, to assisting multiple communities with air service through Community Flights. I started working full-time on this effort starting January 1st, 2013.
To see practical application of Community Flights services and actual results we recommend that you go to our Case Studies. Case Study – Crested Butte Mountain Resort and Case study – Telluride/Montrose Colorado.
Community Flights – Scott Stewart – [email protected] – 970-759-3559