County and business leaders are optimist that a well oiled campaign to encourage United Airlines to begin daily flights from San Luis Obispo next Spring will be successful. “We have a good track record United can look at.When we have seats – we fill them” says acting SLO County airport manager Craig Piper.
“Demand to fly to Denver is there.”
As proof SLO-area businesses have stepped up to pledge some $1.2 million in non-binding commitments in the past few weeks through the SLO-based Economic Vitality Corporation(EVC) to use the service, adds Piper.
“I can confirm we were able to reach our goal in corporate sponsorships” says Michael Manchak, executive director of the EVC.
In addition, the SLO County Board of Supervisors will be asked next week to add some $250,000 to a $500,000 Dept of Transportation fund in place now that could used to subsidize start-up cost for the new air service for a year.
A Sixel Consulting Group marketing study found that United Airlines faces a possible $1.5 million loss in the first two years of service that this county subsidy fund could help reduce.The funds committed by SLO area businesses also helps assure United that demand is there mitigating the airline’s risk.
“We want to assure United they will not lose their shirt” adds Piper.
Local businesses pitched in the Sixel constant study they were presented with in September seemed convinced that driving to LA round trip was costing them more than $200 not including the lost time it takes.
70 Passenger Jet
The Sixel study suggests United would likely fly a 70 passenger jet CRJ-700 for the daily service to and back – a 2.5 hour flight each way.
A Denver flight would be the first service to travel east instead of strictly north and south to LA,SF and Phoenix.“This could get you half way across the US and opens up 28 additional one-stop destinations for SLO traveler who now have to make two stops for many destinations, he says.
Piper says if funds are approved by the BOS next week airport staff plan to meet with United in a matter of weeks and adds ”we are optimistic this will work out.”
If the airline gives the green light Piper says look for a Spring launch of the service – perhaps May.Meanwhile, a new airport administrator will be taking the place of Richard Howell who left the position recently. Kevin Bumen,a Cal Poly grad and manager at the Tahoe/Truckee airport will be relocating to SLO starting duties here November 12. Mr Piper will continue as assistant manager.
Notable, the number of passengers using the SLO airport rose in September by 4.8% compared to a year earlier.Piper says their load factor now is about 80% proving good demand if the seats are offered.The airport is served by United flying to LA and SF and US Airways who flies to Phoenix.
Piper says United will add a flight to LA in December.
In a related matter,SLO airport staff plan to ask the Board of Supervisors for permission to move forward on construction drawing s for the new airport terminal also next Tuesday. Piper says an earlier plan would have had the new terminal under construction by 2015 Btu the schedule could slip.