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Sun Air International scheduled to take flight next month

By ALLISON MILES
Aug. 8, 2012 at 3:08 a.m.

Dave Hackett

ON AGENDA

Air service wasn't the only topic of conversation Wednesday during the Victoria Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon.

• Randy Vivian, the chamber's president and CEO, also presented awards to two Victoria businesses.

• Small-Business Partner of the Month went to Kliem & Rodriguez Attorneys at Law, while Corporate Business Partner of the Month went to Warm Springs Specialty Hospital of Victoria.

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For more information about schedules and reservations, visit www.flyvictoriatx.com.

Commercial air service is about a month away for Victoria.

Sept. 17 is the tentative start date for flights in and out of the Victoria Regional Airport, said Dave Hackett, senior vice president of marketing and planning for Sun Air International, Victoria's new air carrier.

Hackett spoke Wednesday at the Victoria Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon, updating attendees about the incoming service.

The ball is rolling, he said, noting that pilots were training, aircraft refurbishments were under way, crews were configuring the reservation system and security plans for the Houston airport awaited approval.

Sun Air will make four daily flights between Victoria and Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport, he said. Tickets will range from $29 to $69 each way.

The preliminary schedule now includes departures from Victoria at 6:15 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 3:15 p.m. and 5 p.m., he said. Preliminary arrival times are 9:30 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 4:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.

That schedule might see some compression as flights begin.

Hackett said he guessed passengers could begin booking flights the first week of September, although that depended on the reservation system. Passengers can book through travel agents or websites such as Expedia and Travelocity.

Pinnacle Airlines Corp., parent company to Victoria's former carrier, Colgan Air, in March announced plans to pull essential air service from the airport. The plan called for flights to continue until a replacement was found but, on June 30, the company discontinued service.

The airport commission selected Sun Air in mid-June.

Jason Milewski, who manages the Victoria Regional Airport, admitted Pinnacle left the region high and dry, but said he looked forward to working with the new carrier.

Smaller airlines allow more flexibility with schedules and pricing, he said, and don't come across with the arrogance that many larger companies do.

The drawback to losing that service, however, was that Victoria's enplanements were up at the time.

"More and more people were starting to fly again," he said. "We're hoping to not only continue that trend, but we hope to see that skyrocket even further."

Carol Dohmann, a First Victoria National Bank employee who attended Wednesday's luncheon, said she was glad to hear that service was on its way. It means good news for companies looking to do business in Victoria, as well as Crossroads residents leaving for vacations.

Milton Chapman, chairman of the chamber's board, agreed it meant good things for the city. The chamber is putting together a transportation committee and hopes to help the air program along however possible, he added.

"For Victoria to grow and become a destination city, we need air service," he said. "We need them as much as they need us."

Hackett said Sun Air was glad to be part of its new market. And, although he said he realized Victoria hoped to see larger aircraft and more flight times down the road, the only way to get there is to operate successfully from the start.

"You've got a company here that's interested in being here for the long term," he said. "We're excited to be in Victoria."

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