A weekend at the beach will soon be only an hour away.
Eight years after losing our last international flight, direct air service between Tucson and Guaymas, Sonora, will begin by summer.
The governors of Arizona and Sonora, along with the mayors of Tucson and Guaymas, are set to announce the new air service later this month.
A domestic airline will fly a 50-seat Bombardier CRJ200 jet four times a week between Tucson and Guaymas, as well as Phoenix and Guaymas. The flight will originate in Phoenix and fly to Guaymas, then from Guaymas to Tucson and back and then leave Guaymas and terminate in Phoenix.
The 55-minute flights will land at the Guaymas airport, where shuttles, taxis and rental cars will be available, said Ernesto Bojorquez, finance director for the Guaymas airport.
San Carlos, which last year garnered the top spot in National Geographic’s top 10 list of ocean views, is only 15 minutes away.
In Tucson, the international airport terminal will reopen to process passengers that city officials hope will head to shopping malls and local hotels.
Details about the airline will be made public by officials during the upcoming announcement, along with information about when tickets will go on sale and how to buy them.
“Restoring flights to Sonora has been a huge priority,” said David Hatfield, spokesman for Tucson International Airport, noting that the airport has been working to restore service to Mexico since 2008.
“We couldn’t be more ecstatic,” said Bonnie Allin, president and CEO of the Tucson Airport Authority.
Tucson Group was key
Tucson-based The Offshore Group, which operates two large manufacturing parks in Guaymas and neighboring Empalme, was instrumental in sealing the deal.
Since Tucson lost the flight to Hermosillo in 2008, Offshore has flown clients from Phoenix to Hermosillo and then shuttled them to Guaymas.
“Offshore generates a high volume of traffic between suppliers, manufacturers and investors,” said company President Luis Felipe Seldner III. “When the airline saw the volume of activity and got our support to bring that business to them, it was a no-brainer.
“We are on board with them,” he said. “Offshore is backing those flights.”
With clients such as Paradigm Precision, Parker Aerospace and Rolls-Royce at its Sonora manufacturing parks, Offshore employs more than 14,000 people, making it the largest private employer in the state.
This airline was the third one Offshore had met with to try to get air service started, Seldner said.
“Our role was to make the introductions, bring them all our business and now to support and promote these flights.”
Seldner gave a nod to the governors of Sonora and Arizona and the mayors of Guaymas and Tucson for their advocacy.
“This is a perfect example of how when state and city leaders come together with a shared goal, they help support the growth of the private sector,” he said.
As a native of Guaymas with a home and business on both sides of the border, Seldner is pleased to see the interest from Arizona tourists to visit Guaymas and San Carlos, without having to make the six-hour drive.
“This connectivity will help both states and cities increase the number of tourists and business activity,” he said. “It is a great accomplishment.”
Flights under $400
Work on landing the flight between Tucson and Guaymas began more than a year ago, and just last week the final permits were obtained in Mexico City.
Airline officials said Tucson offers three types of travelers — businesspeople, tourists and friends-and-family.
Keeping the fares affordable is key to making the flights successful, said Antonio Berumen Preciado, tourism director for the state of Sonora.
The round-trip flights will be under $400, there will be no charge for the first checked bag, and drinks and snacks will be free.
The airline, which has received all necessary permits in both countries, is only the first that will roll out new air service between Arizona and Mexico this year, Berumen said.
One airline, which has regional flights between Hermosillo, Ciudad Juarez, Cuiliacan and La Paz, plans to add a pickup in Arizona. Another airline with service to Hermosillo, Guadalajara, Mazatlan and Los Mochis also plans to fly into Arizona.
“It won’t be long before we have multiple options to Tucson and Phoenix,” Berumen said. “We are confident that we will fill those flights.”
He said Sonora Gov. Claudia Pavlovich extends a warm welcome to visitors from Arizona.
“She looks forward to greeting them,” Berumen said.
“The addition of a new international flight to Phoenix — and the first and only international flight to Tucson — is an incredible testament to the positive work we’ve been doing to boost ties with Mexico,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said. “Our renewed focus on the Arizona-Sonora relationship is already paying dividends in terms of enhancing binational trade and tourism, and the new air services from Guaymas will only magnify our efforts. ¡Bienvenidos a Arizona, Guaymas!”
“Open for Business”
Juan Cordero Gutierrez, the new director of economic development and tourism for the city of Guaymas, said his business cards were delivered to him with the image of an airplane on them to emphasize that it was his top priority to see this flight begin.
“Sure, we have billboards and fliers and ads letting people know about Guaymas and San Carlos,” Cordero said. “But now we have a plane. Now we’re open for business.”
Activities include fishing, diving, chartered cruises, kite surfing, parachuting and an upcoming hot air balloon festival.
Aside from the obvious draw that the beaches of San Carlos will be for many visitors, city officials are also investing in restoring the historic sites in downtown Guaymas for tourists to see.
Both cities are eager to welcome what they hope will be planes filled with visitors.
“The announcement of this route opens a new chapter in Tucson economic development history,” said Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “It is fitting that this first route links one of Tucson’s favorite travel destinations to Sonorans’ favorite retail shopping destination.
“I can’t wait to fly from Tucson to Guaymas to do business and enjoy the beautiful ocean sunsets.”
Guaymas Mayor Lorenzo de Cima Dworak said he is equally eager to fly to Tucson to celebrate the new air service.
“Both of us will enjoy more tourists, business travelers and family visits,” he said. “It will be very beneficial to both cities and both states. This is an important milestone.”