Taos Regional Airport (TSM) is a small facility situated in Taos, New Mexico, where most operations fall under the category of general aviation. However, in recent years, commercial flights have also begun to serve the airport in the form of Taos Air. This carrier is a ‘virtual airline’ that operates flights to Taos for the ski season. Let’s take a closer look at it.
What is a virtual airline?
Let’s start by establishing the nature of Taos Air’s operations. As we have established, the carrier is what is known as a ‘virtual airline.’ This term refers to operators that have control over their companies but outsource different aspects of their operations.
In the case of Taos Air, its flights have been operated by Ultimate Jetcharters (2018-2019 winter season) and Advanced Air (2019-2020). In terms of other operational elements, Taos Ski Valley Inc. pays for the fleet’s upkeep, while the Town of Taos provides airport services. These include de-icing, a hangar, use of the airport’s terminal, and even marketing.
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A growing network
The function of Taos Air, which commenced operations in December 2018, is to increase accessibility by air to the Taos Ski Valley. It initially served the area from two Texan destinations, namely Dallas Love Field (DAL) and Austin-Bergstrom International (AUS).
After a first winter season, Taos Air planned to operate summer flights on existing routes. However, it had to cancel these due to a lack of availability of charter aircraft and pilots. Of course, this outsourcing is one of the risks of virtual airlines.
Nonetheless, when the 2019-2020 winter season rolled around, the airline expanded to California (Los Angeles-Hawthorne and San Diego-Carlsbad). It had to cut this program short by around two weeks, terminating its schedules on March 15th, 2020 due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly, it shelved its entire 2020-2021 program.
An exclusive experience
Taos Air offers its passengers a rather exclusive experience. Its flights use private terminals, meaning that passengers can check in as late as 30 minutes before departure. They are also entitled to a generous luggage allowance of two checked bags, and a free transfer to the ski resort at the other end. Furthermore, all flights are 100% carbon offset.
The airline is set to operate a summer service on its network between July and September this year. Passengers can even book thought itineraries between Texas and California via Taos. The flights to Taos take around two hours, and they start at $180 one-way.
According to data from ch-aviation.com, Taos Air flights are operated by a pair of Fairchild-Dornier 328JET aircraft. The youngest of these is registered as N192TS, and has 32 seats in a 2-1 layout. It is 19 years old, and it was delivered to Independence Air in 2002.
Its counterpart in the fleet is 20 years old and bears a strikingly similar registration of simply N192T. This aircraft has 30 seats, boasting an impressive pitch of 34 inches. It first flew for Atlantic Coast Jet in 2001, where it originally bore the registration N418FJ.
Did you know about Taos Air? Perhaps you’ve even flown with the carrier? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!