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Taos gets direct air service with Dallas, Austin

SANTA FE, N.M. — Taos and its surrounding areas could enjoy a significant boost in tourism through a new local charter air service linking Taos Regional Airport with Austin International and Dallas-Love Field airports in Texas.

Taos Ski Valley Inc. has purchased a 30-passenger Dornier 328 jet from Ultimate Jetcharters, an Ohio-based company that offers East Coast shuttle service and charter flights. The Ski Valley signed a management agreement with Ultimate to operate the newly-formed Taos Air service.

Starting Dec. 20 and through March, Taos Air will provide one round trip flight between Taos and each of the Texas airports every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday or holiday Monday, for a total of six round trips per week. Tickets will cost $399, said Taos Ski Valley CEO David Norden.

“Ultimate Jetcharters will operate Taos Air with its own crew and flight attendants and manage day-to-day operations,” Norden said.

It’s the first air service connecting Taos with Texas, and the first commercial flights out of Taos Regional Airport since shuttle service to Albuquerque and Santa Fe ended 10 years ago, said Taos Mayor Daniel Barrone. That service was financed through grants and ended when the grants ran dry.

Taos Air service is enabled by a new, $24 million runway that opened last fall at the Taos Regional Airport, financed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“With the new runway in place, we are committed to positioning the Taos Regional Airport as an economic driver for Taos County and northern New Mexico,” Mayor Barrone said in a statement. “To that end, we are working with the state and our regional partners to develop and fund year-round, long-term air service.”

The flights could bring more winter vacationers to the area, helping to strengthen and diversify the local economy.

“It’s a great opportunity for economic development in our community, not only for Taos but for surrounding areas,” Barrone told the Journal. “We have three ski valleys here, each with a different terrain and experience, plus rich local history, culture and arts. It’s an opportunity for people who don’t usually come here to visit Taos.”

Tourism is one of the area’s economic mainstays. About 80 percent of local government revenue comes from gross receipts taxes, and about half of that is generated through tourism, Barrone said.

For Taos Ski Valley, the new air service is part of a $300 million resort renovation project the company launched a few years ago. That includes new ski lifts and snow-making machines, a hotel that opened last year, expanded restaurant service and a new children’s center.

“The issue has been access to and from northern New Mexico,” Norden said. “The new air service will make things easier for guests.”