Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Nonstop flights from SLO to Denver coming in June
By Lindsey Holden and Larissa Doust
The San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune
United Airlines is adding a long sought-after daily nonstop flight from San Luis Obispo to Denver starting June 8.
The 2 1/2 -hour flight between San Luis Obispo and Denver will be operated by SkyWest Airlines.
The first arriving flight leaves Denver at 7:10 p.m. June 8 and arrives in San Luis Obispo at 8:48 p.m. The first departure flight will leave San Luis Obispo on June 9 at 5:40 a.m. and arrive in Denver at 9:06 a.m. All times are local. San Luis Obispo is one of 31 destinations across the United States and Europe to which the airline is adding service.
Bookings are available at www.united.com. United Airlines also flies nonstop to San Francisco and Los Angeles from San Luis Obispo.
This is the second new destination for San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport users this year. Alaska Airlines will begin daily nonstop service from San Luis Obispo to Seattle on April 13.
United’s announcement Monday comes after business and public officials spent years seeking to add Denver as a destination from San Luis Obispo.
In 2013, for example, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted to allocate $212,500 to support a two-year revenue guarantee program to help support Denver-San Luis Obispo flights until they became self-sustaining. The U.S. Department of Transportation also awarded the airport a $500,000 grant as another source of revenue insurance.
In addition, the airport then collected nonbinding pledges — through which businesses expressed their intent to travel using the airline — to help woo a Denver flight.
But Kevin Bumen, San Luis Obispo County’s director of airports, said the pledges didn’t play a role in United’s decision to add the flight. And the economic incentives instead went to attract Alaska Airlines.
“This market has been an attractive route to United,” United spokeswoman Maddie King said. “It was just a matter of finding the right aircraft and schedule to operate the route. United is aiming to improve connectivity through its hubs. Serving destinations such as San Luis Obispo will give customers in these markets more options to connect to destinations across the country and the world with just one stop.”
This focus on regional stops and the commitment of Visit SLO CAL — a countywide destination marketing organization — to market the new connection, both in Denver and in San Luis Obispo, were factors in United’s decision to add the flight, Bumen said.
“It’s been this combination of persistence and community partnerships,” he said.
Visit SLO CAL has been advertising San Luis Obispo County in the Seattle market, and will now do the same in Denver.
“We don’t have as much time to plan for this launch as we did for Seattle, but we do have assets and communications channels ready to go for Denver,” said Brooke Burnham, Visit SLO CAL’s vice president of marketing.
The new flights could significantly impact tourism over time, said Chuck Davison, president and CEO of Visit SLO CAL. What begins as 50 seats daily could expand to multiple flights and thousands of people as market awareness grows.
Michael Manchak, president of the Economic Vitality Corporation, called the new flight “an absolute gamechanger,” especially for businesses operating in the region. The additional flight destination is key to the vitality of the local economy and to keeping and growing jobs in the area, he said.
“It’ll be the first flight we have that goes directly east,” Manchak said. “From there, Denver opens up even international flights.”