Rita Hargrove bought a one-way ticket from Tyler to Denver at a discount rate and doesn’t know when she’ll book a return trip.
Hargrove, 68, lives in Timpson. She said she decided to fly out of Tyler because it’s closer than Dallas, and she was able to get a direct ticket at a low price.
She’s headed to Frederick, Colorado, which is about 30 miles northeast of Denver, to see her son, daughter-in-law, and three grandkids. The middle grandchild just underwent surgery and will be in recovery for three weeks.
Hargrove was one of nearly 180 people who bought tickets on Frontier Airlines’ first flight from Tyler Pounds Regional Airport to Denver International Airport. The Tuesday flight took off around 5 p.m.
The plane was a twin-engine Airbus 320, a commercial airliner with 186 seats. That’s about four times the size of the American Airlines plane that Kelsey Husted, the spokeswoman for Frontier, said she flew into Tyler earlier that day for the occasion.
Until Tuesday, American was the only airline offering flights out of Tyler. The company’s direct flight gets passengers to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, where they can connect to other flights.
“We offer low fares that can get you nonstop to Denver,” Frontier’s Husted said. “You can get more people out on that flight, and we can get to more destinations from there.” The airline, which is headquartered in Denver, offers connecting flights all over the world.
The Tyler airport has opened itself up to bigger planes, and therefore more airlines, after finishing reconstruction and rehabilitation of a runway at the end of 2018. The majority of the tens of millions of dollars spent on the project came from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The city continues to move forward with upgrades to the airport. The airport director has said the space could easily accommodate five airlines, and last week the FAA announced another grant for the city to update its airport master plan.
John Haft, 51, of Tyler, and his 9-year-old son, Travis, were among those waiting at the gate for the flight to Denver. The two were headed there for a five-day trip.
“The rates initially were cheap, and I have really good friends in Colorado Springs that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Haft said.
“We don’t have any real plans, just seeing some friends,” he said. “Hopefully do some hiking, see some mountains, enjoy the cooler weather.” Meanwhile, Travis said he is excited to watch fireworks on the Fourth of July.
Jennifer Benner, 47, of Tyler, said she was headed to Denver for a week on a girls trip with her three daughters and niece, ages 16 to 22.
“It was cheap, and it was just easier not to have to drive two hours to the airport” at DFW, Benner said.
The flight out of Tyler left about an hour and a half after the first flight from Denver landed at 3:20 p.m.
When the arriving passengers walked out of the gate, community leaders and top government officials greeted them with balloons and applause.
Melinda Draschil, 36, of Utah, was one of those roughly 90 incoming passengers. She said she was so surprised by the reception that, while she was walking, she kept looking behind her to see if someone famous was on the flight.
Draschil said she flew to Tyler because her husband’s family is from here. He and the kids rode separately, on a 24-hour drive from Utah.
“I’m so glad we can fly to Tyler, and we don’t have to fly to Dallas,” Draschil said.