The Cranky Flier Interview: Denver Air Connection’s Jon Coleman

Podcast, The Cranky Flier Interview

I was debating whether to publish this as a “Who the F*&# is” post or a Cranky Flier Interview, but after hearing Jon talk about his company, I thought audio was the way to go. But the question still remains… who the f*&# is Denver Air Connection?

Denver Air Connection is the passenger-facing brand for Key Lime Air, a proud operator of Metroliners, Dornier 328 Jets, and Embraer regionals. It’s not easy being a little guy, but Denver Air Connection has come up with a pretty interesting plan to get pilots onboard, teach them how to fly, and save the industry… or something like that.

I spoke with Jon Coleman, head of business development for the airline — and a pilot — about what the company is doing to keep growing in a time that is not easy for small operators.

Enjoy our discussion, and if you’ve been on the airline, let’s heard about it.

Download the episode here or listen below.

Thank you to our presenting sponsor Ontario International Airport.

ONT is excited about the strong recovery they’ve had in 2021, reaching 97% of pre-pandemic levels, and are looking forward to growing further in 2022. For the past 4 years, ONT has been America’s fastest-growing airport as recognized by Global Traveler with 2021 seeing new flights added to Chicago/O’Hare, Honolulu, Miami, Newark, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Francisco, and San Salvador.

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13 comments on “The Cranky Flier Interview: Denver Air Connection’s Jon Coleman

  1. About a year ago I took a day trip up to Denver and flew the DAC Metroliner round trip to Alliance, Nebraska (AIA) just to log a flight on it. I was the only passenger on the way up and one of three on the way back (both of the other two were connecting to another airline). It was a fun experience. With only 9 seats the leg room went on forever. I was chatting with the airport personnel at AIA who told me that they get an avgeek coming to log the aircraft about once or twice a month. Most of them are American, but every once in a while someone comes from much further, including a guy from the UK who had business in Denver and snuck in the Metroliner as a side trip. For around $90 RT it was a great way to spend a few hours.

    1. Good to hear.

      I don’t log my flights/planes like a lot of avgeeks do, but I do love flying on smaller & less common commercial planes, and a one-way on an EAS Cessna out of Love Field still ranks as one of my favorite flights… I don’t expect to be out in Denver anytime soon, but if I am, I will be very tempted to do as you did, and book a roundtrip just to try a new plane.

      1. Yeah, one of my favorite airplane adventures was a Sunday morning trip on Mokulele from HNL to Lanai. Spent the day exploring the island and then headed back in the evening on a island Air (?). On the morning flight I was the only passenger on the Cessna Grand Caravan. I think it cost me 5000 UA miles or something like that.

        1. The nice thing about the smaller, slower planes is that you really get to experience the journey, not just the destination.

          Flying in a Cessna at 7k or 9k feet is a much more sensory and visceral experience than the sanitized ambiance you get when you fly a widebody at 40k feet between continents.

        1. I believe it was SeaPort Airlines, sometime around 2013-2015, from Dallas Love to Hot Springs to Harrison (Boone County), Arkansas, on a plane with a single engine (believe it was a Cessna 208 Caravan, based on SeaPort’s historical fleet), 2 pilots, and 8 or 9 pax.

          I made sure to grab seat 1A, looked over the pilots’ shoulders (from a few feet behind them) for most of the flight and had a blast.

          1. Oh that’s right, SeaPort did fly out of Love. Boutique or somebody flies the Arkansas EAS routes out of DFW now.

  2. I’m at work and haven’t had a chance to listen yet, but did you have a chance to ask why the parent company is named Key Lime Air?

    Wouldn’t Rocky Mountain Oyster Air be more appropriate?

  3. Very interesting interview. I agree with what Brett said at the end, it’s great to hear someone speak passionately about their company’s attempt to carve out a profitable niche in an industry that is very competitive, for both pax and skilled pilots.

    I’m not a pilot or in the airline industry, but I can see the appeal of Key Lime’s pitch to pilots, especially in terms of being the “one career stop needed” between 400 hours and getting a job a few years later with a major as a FO in a mainline jet, especially if one could get a Denver-based job and not have to move/commute.

  4. It’s great they’re an airline that’s dedicated to finding a pipeline for new pilots and retaining what they can. But Key Lime / Denver Air Connection desperately needs a codeshare – a rethink of their regional name, and an actual commercial plan.

    They can trash talk SkyWest all they want but look at the T-100 data for Pierre, SD and Watertown, SD when they both operated:

    For July 2022; SkyWest CRJ load Factor was 72%, and 52% in Watertown and Pierre, SD. Denver Air Connection was 29% and 21% respectively on a 30 seat plane. Sure their completion % was higher, but look what customers preferred.

    Second, their bid was lower in Pierre and Watertown because their scope of flying was much less than SkyWest’s/United which had more DEN and ORD flying. Not to mention they bid ontop of the SkyWest proposal – I wonder why united was upset. Hmmm.

    1. Appreciate Cranky Flier’s effort to include smaller, regional airlines in his commentary. 727200’s obvious bias for OO really stands out. They bid an egregious amount to continue service to to ATY and PIR. The feds saw through it and sent them packing, as well as they should have. But nary did OO give up, they stayed on flying for six months on the routes to try to run Denver Air off the routes.

      As a businessman, Denver Air puts a pretty good product forward. My flying with them has been reliable and offered much better service than many other carriers operating out of Denver. Thanks again Cranky for your willingness to include a broad spectrum of America’s airline information to us.

      1. “They bid an egregious amount to continue service to to ATY and PIR. The feds saw through it and sent them packing, as well as they should have.”

        Guess they should have underbid on an unrealistic load factor and passenger revenue like DAC did. Nevermind that PIR and ATY backed OO, DAC has good plan to retain pilots but amount to nothing without a codeshare.

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