by Scott DCamp
San Francisco, Calif.-based Boutique Air officially began its service a full week ahead of schedule with its first flight from Thief River Falls Regional Airport to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Friday, June 24. The first departure left Thief River Falls at approximately 6:20 a.m. Friday.
David Howlett, project manager at Boutique Air, had been in Thief River Falls for a couple weeks preparing the new staff to oversee day-to-day operation of the airline. He said the call came in Tuesday to start service Friday.
“We’re excited to be here, I personally love to see the planes come in,” Howlett said. “It’s a great experience, if you have a chance to fly, give it a shot.”
Howlett said Boutique had an opportunity to start early.
“We had an official start date, so this gave us about a week, sort of soft launch, where we could work out all of the details,” Howlett said. “We have all the basics down. There’s still some stuff to work out but we can handle it as we go.”
Five passengers, including Howlett, boarded the first flight. Howlett was a little surprised at the good turnout for the first flight.
“I knew I was going to be coming,” Howlett said, adding that he wasn’t all that surprised due to the great service that is available.
“It’s a quick trip – $40 one way, $39 officially – so you can get [to the Twin Cities] and back for $80 round trip,” Howlett said. “I don’t know if you can beat that.”
Howlett also touted the experience of flying in a Pilatus PC-12, which is the aircraft used by Boutique Air. Boutique Air calls it flying private for the cost of commercial. “It’s all executive-equipped, sound dampening, it’s a really fun trip,” he said.
Howlett said the introductory pricing, which starts as low as $39 for a one-way flight, will last indefinitely.
“Usually the prices we set are about what they are going to stay at,” Howlett said. “We do have refundable fares, which are a little more, but I don’t expect a ton of changes in prices.
“There’s always a matter of feeling it out – not in terms of prices – more in terms of what times are we going to run services,” Howlett added. “Do people want more routes coming at certain times of day? Later routes?”
Airport Authority commissioners Darryl Tveitbakk and Don Jensen were among the first passengers to fly Boutique Air. It should be noted that both passengers purchased their own tickets.
“It went perfect,” Tveitbakk said after his first trip aboard Boutique. “The ride was smooth, the staff was nice. There were no glitches at all. Very smooth down and back.”
Tveitbakk said the Pilatus PC-12 is a nice aircraft. “By some standards it is small but it is very plush and very nice – not that different than a corporate flight,” Tveitbakk said.
Boutique Air offers non-refundable tickets starting at $39 per flight for up to the first three fares booked on a given flight. After that, the non-refundable fare increases to $49 per flight. Refundable tickets are $89 per flight. Refunds are also available for non-refundable fares that are cancelled within 24 hours of booking. Ninety-day vouchers are offered for cancellations made outside the 24-hour booking window.
“We like to be flexible for the community,” Howlett said. “The more people that get on the plane the better,” Howlett added.
Flights from Thief River Falls to MSP are scheduled to depart at 6:15 a.m., and 9:45 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 5:15 p.m. Sunday through Friday.
Flights from MSP to Thief River Falls are scheduled to depart at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and 5:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday.
For flight schedules, visit https://www.boutiqueair.com/air/book_a_seat/flights