Derek Pratt has a simple philosophy for Rim country residents who need to get themselves, their families and their luggage to Sky Harbor Airport:
"Let me do the driving."
The British-born Pratt, who recently retired to Payson, has unretired himself by starting up the Payson-Phoenix Airport Shuttle.
The shuttle completely eliminates the need for local residents to drive those 160-some-odd round-trip miles when gasoline prices are at their all-time high; finding and paying for a parking place and battling Sky Harbor traffic while attempting to locate the right terminal.
A seven-year driver for Phoenix Transit, Pratt appreciates the challenges of driving to and from the Valley, particularly for senior citizens. Having worked around Sky Harbor with city buses, Gray Line Tours and the Thrifty Car Rental shuttle vans, he also knows how easy it is to be confused, rattled and undone by the process.
"Not what you want at the start of a long journey," Pratt said.
Currently, Pratt makes two round trips per day, five days a week, Monday through Friday -- a schedule that might go to seven days a week this summer, depending on demand.
If you live in Payson or Star Valley, Pratt will pick you up at home, either between 8:20 a.m. and 8:50 a.m., or 3:20 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. He'll make one stop at the old Wal-Mart parking lot, the designated pick-up place for commuters from Pine, Strawberry or other outlying areas. And he'll depart Sky Harbor at noon and 6 p.m. for returns to Payson at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The cost for Pratt's service is $20 one way and $35 round trip.
"My aim in this venture is not to make a lot of money," Pratt said. "The fact is that after paying for the vehicle, insurance, airport charges, gas, oil and the maintenance of the van, there is not much profit to be made. But I like people, and feel that the service will help more folks enjoy the relaxation of watching the beautiful scenery between here and Phoenix, while I drive and watch the road."
History of public service
Pratt has a history of public service and believes that friendliness, understanding and courtesy are the most important components of his business.
Kim Jim, owner of Travel Network in Payson, likes Pratt's philosophy and his enterprise.
"I think the Payson-Phoenix Airport Shuttle is wonderful," said Jim, owner of Travel Network in Payson. "For a long time, we've really needed a shuttle company that's willing to go the extra mile in terms of service, and this one certainly does. And Derek is so nice; I would trust him with any of our clients."
Before you dial-a-ride with Derek Pratt, though, he has a few notes for you.
As its name implies, the Payson-Phoenix Airport Shuttle will take Rim country residents to Sky Harbor only, not to other parts of the Valley or any points in between. Pratt does not pick up or deliver packages, and children do not ride free.
"This is a budget line," Pratt said, "low in cost but hopefully high in satisfaction."
To make reservations for Derek Pratt's Payson-Phoenix Airport Shuttle, call 468-8405.
In the name of equal time, it should also be pointed out that the 20-year-old Payson Express also operates a Sky Harbor shuttle. It runs Mondays through Saturdays, once a day -- leaving Payson at 8 a.m. and departing Sky Harbor at 1:30 p.m.
Fares range from $25 to $35, travel is not limited to the airport, service is door-to-door, and packages are accepted for delivery. For more information, call 474-5254.