El Pomar Welcomes Southwest Airlines to the Pikes Peak Region
By Megan Sanders
El Pomar Foundation is thrilled to welcome Southwest Airlines to the Pikes Peak Region. Southwest’s new daily flights to five of the airline’s biggest hubs out of Colorado Springs Airport reflect the vision of public-private partnerships such as the Aeronautical Enhancement Fund (AEF) housed at Pikes Peak Community Foundation (PPCF). AEF was created in 2016 by El Pomar Foundation and PPCF to help the City of Colorado Springs develop, promote and accommodate air commerce, air travel and air transportation in Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Springs Airport had seen a downturn in flight options and air traffic since Western Pacific Airlines closed its operations in the late 1990s. The airport became a greater burden on city operations and land around the airport suffered from the airport’s weakened performance.
In 2013, then Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach – with an eye toward persuading airlines to offer more flights at lower fares to more nonstop destinations – created an Airport Air Service Task Force. William J. Hybl, then El Pomar Foundation’s President & CEO, was tapped to lead the new task force. The goal of the group was to look for ways to creatively and innovatively develop “more affordability and destinations for air travelers.” The task force looked at several factors impacting the airlines’ ability to achieve this and explored ways to attract expanded service at competitive rates, including the creation of AEF.
AEF aimed to enhance the economic vitality of part of Southeast Colorado Springs, create favorable business travel conditions, support air service in the City for the benefit of military families and the public, and provide funding in support of these initiatives.
In fall 2020, AEF committed to support an initiative by the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Visit COS and the Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Corporation, among other entities, agencies, funders and philanthropies, to encourage Southwest Airlines to begin operations out of Colorado Springs.
The City was able to arrive at a favorable agreement with Southwest, including $2.5 million in private and public support, to help with the considerable start-up costs.
In March 2021, Southwest Airlines began flying its new routes to cities including Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Dallas and Chicago. El Pomar staff attended the inaugural ribbon-cutting ceremony to welcome the airline and celebrate its arrival. El Pomar is gratified to be a part of this positive momentum for our community’s economic development and quality of life through its participation in the founding and funding of the Aeronautical Enhancement Fund.
Read more about the AEF and Southwest’s move to Colorado Springs here.