SLO County airport adds flight to Phoenix

A US Airways flight from Phoenix lands at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.
A US Airways flight from Phoenix lands at the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

San Luis Obispo travelers will soon have another round-trip flight to Phoenix daily — one that airport officials hope will boost the number of people traveling in and out of the airport to make up for a slight decline in the number of passengers last year.

Starting Feb. 11, American Airlines will offer an additional evening flight from the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to Phoenix, according to Kevin Bumen, director of airports for San Luis Obispo County.

The new flight is scheduled to arrive in San Luis Obispo at 6:38 p.m. and leave at 7:10 p.m., he said. Other American Airlines flights to Phoenix depart at 6:20 a.m., 12:20 p.m. and 4:10 p.m.

“It’s great news for us,” Bumen said. “It’s really phenomenal.”

This will bring the number of daily flights offered by American Airlines — which merged with US Airways — to four, and the total number of daily flights from the airport to 11.

SkyWest Airlines, which operates locally as United Express, offers seven daily flights: four to Los Angeles and three to San Francisco.

The daily seat capacity will expand to approximately 600 seats, an increase of about 19.28 percent over the average count available in February 2015, according to an airport news release.

“The Central Coast is thriving,” Bumen said. “This is a reflection of the economic strength of the area.”

The new flight will likely increase the number of passengers traveling in and out of the airport, Bumen said, and help make up for a slight decline in growth last year.

Last year, 292,462 people flew into and out of San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, down 3.4 percent from 302,652 in 2014, according to statistics on the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport website.

Most of that loss occurred during a four-month period starting in April, when SkyWest switched from 28-passenger turboprop commuter planes to 50-seat jets, Bumen said.

Because there were more seats to fill on the larger jets, the airline dropped some of the daily flights so there would be fewer empty seats. And that led to fewer passengers, Bumen said.

Passenger numbers began to improve in September after SkyWest added additional flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles, Bumen said.

According to the airport’s annual statistics on passengers, between April and August the airport saw 12.2 percent fewer passengers than during that same period in 2014.

From September to December, however, the total number of passengers increased by 3.06 percent year over year.

The additional San Francisco and Los Angeles flights helped to put the airport back on track in 2015, but the new Phoenix flight should help it expand the number of passengers, Bumen said.

“Phoenix will definitely put us on our growth path,” he said. “I would say we should exceed our growth this year.”