SLO officials meet with United Airlines in pursuit of Denver flight

Travelers enter the terminal at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.
Travelers enter the terminal at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

Officials from the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport took the next steps toward securing a daily flight to and from Denver at a special meeting Monday with United Airlines in Chicago.

“We all feel very positive about it,” said Stacie Jacob, executive director of Visit San Luis Obispo County, a countywide tourism group. “The ball is in United Airlines’ court now.”

Jacob, Economic Vitality Corporation President Michael Manchak and SLO airport General Manager Kevin Bumen met with four United Airlines representatives at the airline’s headquarters to present their pitch on why San Luis Obispo is a good fit for the flight.

The main incentive? Nearly $2 million in guaranteed revenue for the airline, Jacobs said.

Most of the guarantee — $1.3 million — comes from local business’ pledges, with an additional $500,000 from a Department of Transportation grant and $212,500 from county funds allocated by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in November.

Now it is up to United Airlines to decide whether San Luis Obispo will be a good investment, Jacob said.

The Santa Maria Public Airport is also trying to recruit an airline, with United as the main target, with passenger service to a Midwestern hub such as Denver.

Jacob said they learned Monday that United will review Santa Maria and SLO separately — not as an “either/or situation.” The airline will then make a decision “based on what makes business sense for United,’’ Jacob said.

Santa Maria officials met with United within the past month, she said.

If successful, the new flight could begin as early as next summer.

Jacob did not know how long the decision-making process would take.