New flights at SLO airport mean record passengers, plans for bigger planes

If the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport seemed extra crowded last year, it wasn’t just the cramped, outdated terminal building that’s since been replaced.

A record-breaking 407,646 passengers traveled through the county’s airport in 2017, a 23 percent increase from the year before, according to airport administrators.

Last year’s surge came from the addition of new flights, by Alaska Airlines to Seattle and United Airlines to Denver, as well as a fourth daily round trip to San Francisco. Every carrier saw an increase in total passengers for the year.

The airport expects even more passengers to walk through the new terminal in 2018. At least one carrier is responding to the demand with a plan to fly bigger planes into the airport’s new terminal.

United Airlines will add a new plane with a first-class cabin option and more leg room starting in April, replacing the 50-seat Canadair Regional jet with the larger Embraer 175 on its Denver route, two of the daily flights to Los Angeles and one daily trip to San Francisco.

Director of Airports Kevin Bumen said the up-gauging by United Airlines is the largest increase in capacity the airport has ever seen at one time.

He said the passengers’ experience will continue to improve with the new airport terminal that opened in late 2017.

“As evidenced by our new passenger terminal, San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is committed to adding amenities and service options passengers have come to expect for their travel needs,” Bumen said in a prepared statement.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune