Tahoe Air prepares to take flight
South Lake Tahoe may soon have regular commercial flights in and out of the airport. Tahoe Air is set to take off with service to and from Orange County, Las Vegas and the Bay Area within the next few months.
“People that want to go to Tahoe won’t have to fly to Reno and bus it,” said Tahoe Air founder Mike Zeid.
In the beginning Zeid, an Orange County resident, plans to have four flights per week from each destination, likely spread out over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he said. The fares will be comparable to fares to Reno from those destinations, he said. A one-way flight on Tahoe Air from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe Airport is expected to be around $375, and from the Bay Area to Tahoe around $275, Zeid added.
“What I’m excited about is their fares sound to be fairly reasonable,” said airport director Sherry Miller.
Tahoe Air will be registered with the FAA as a charter service, which limits the number of passengers and flights per week it can take. Zeid said he will be applying for a commuter certificate if the demand is there and if the airport can meet the FAA standards for commuter service. For the time being, the airport won’t be making any changes.
“It’s not enough to warrant expansion,” Miller said.
The airline will be running nine-seat turbo-prop planes. Zeid said if he can get a commuter certificate, he will quickly move to larger 30-seat planes. While the commuter certificate would allow more flights and more passengers, there is at least one benefit to being a charter airline: Passengers get to bypass security. Tahoe Air will do its own security, Zeid said.
“If you’re going on a short flight, it sometimes takes longer to go through security,” Miller said.
Tahoe Air already has the support of several South Shore businesses, including Vail Resorts and Harrah’s.
“Our stance is we support any effort to bring additional air service to Lake Tahoe,” said Heavenly spokesman Russ Pecoraro.
Zeid has a long history in Tahoe. He lived here for 15 years in the 1970s. From 1973 to 1975, he operated Ram Air, which flew in and out of the Lake Tahoe airport to Carson City, Reno, Sacramento, San Francisco and Las Vegas. In their first year, Ram went from one plane to eleven, Zeid said. And the company had some well-known passengers: Frank Sinatra Jr. and Wayne Newton to name a couple.
“They used to come in the cockpit with a cocktail and have fun,” Zeid said.
Ram Air ended after Zeid’s partner swapped their small plane fleet for fewer, larger planes. The operating costs went up and the business couldn’t sustain, Zeid said.
Now, nearly 40 years later, Zeid is focused on creating an airline for Tahoe that will last. Flights should be arriving and departing Lake Tahoe airport by June 17.
“It’s Tahoe’s airline, and it will hopefully stay that way forever,” Zeid said. “Tahoe needs it.”