She stopped flying out of Victoria in October 2017 because her daughter had trouble with her Texas Sky flight to Victoria. The flight was delayed for a day because of plane equipment problems, said Valenta, 68, of Lolita.
“They would change leaving times. First they said the plane was not working or they were waiting on a part,” she said. “With Texas Sky, we didn’t know if you would be stranded there or down here.”
Valenta was one of the passengers to fly on a fully booked Boutique Air flight to Dallas that departed at 11 a.m. Thursday, the first day of the new airline service at Victoria Regional Airport. She landed in Dallas at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport about 12:20 p.m.
“It was comfortable,” she said. “Everyone on there had good things to say. They all liked it.”
Valenta flew in a Beechcraft King Air 350 aircraft that seated nine passengers. Other flights Thursday were at 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Boutique Air will offer 21 round trip flights a week.
The airport’s two-year contract with Boutique Air started Nov. 1, a day after its contract with Texas Sky ended. With Boutique Air, passengers can book flights from Victoria to most destinations in the world because of the airline’s partnership with United Airlines, said Lenny Llerena, the airport’s executive director. Luggage can be picked up at a passenger’s final destination instead of being transferred between connecting flights. Passengers can also earn MileagePlus points with United by flying with Boutique Air.
Llerena said he hopes the new airline can bring new opportunities to the airport, such as the return of rental car companies.
Brian Murphy, airline chief operating officer, said all Thursday flights were on time and operations ran smoothly. Although the flight to Dallas was fully booked, seats were still available on the flights to Houston. Seats on flights to Dallas are between 70 and 80 percent booked through the first week of service.
“We expect passenger loads in Houston to pick up, especially as our partnership becomes more widely known,” he said.
About a month ago, Boutique Air and Victoria Regional Airport officials agreed to station the airline’s King Air maintenance team in a hangar at the local airport. Boutique Air is hiring about 30 employees across customer service, maintenance and pilots to work for their Victoria service, Murphy said.
“We liked Lenny, and his team in Victoria are great partners to do something like this with,” he said. “They were very receptive to giving us a home there.”
Miranda Wallace, 30, of Victoria, expanded her business, Gluten Freedom Bakery, by adding a storefront earlier this year at the airport. She offers gluten-, dairy-, soy- and egg-free goods.
“The increased traffic flow will be good for business. A lot of people don’t even know that I’m here,” she said. “Having people in and out of the airport all day long increases people being able to see me, know that I’m here and know the things I offer.”
Jan Regan, 72, of Port Lavaca, also flew on the flight to Dallas on Thursday. She bought her ticket as soon as she found out Boutique Air was starting its service so she wouldn’t have to make the long drive as previously planned. She will spend Friday with her 9-year-old granddaughter during grandparents day at her school.
“I’m the only grandparent she has left, and I wanted to be there for her,” she said.