San Luis Obispo Couty air travelers will be able to directly reach one of the country’s major hubs from their home airport starting next spring.
American Airlines will begin year-round service from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport on April 2, 2019, the airline announced Thursday morning. It’s the farthest east local fliers can travel on a non-stop flight.
“We’re going to Dallas,” County Airports Director Kevin Bumen enthusiastically announced simultaneously with President and CEO of Visit SLO CAL Chuck Davison at a press conference at the new airport terminal Thursday afternoon.
The airport is now connected to 89 new one-stop connections around the world, including six new international markets in Central and South America, which Davison described as “a huge opportunity not only for business and tourism, but for all of you who love to travel for vacation out of San Luis Obispo.”
This is the latest in a series of major growth spurts for an airport that saw no new flights for nearly a decade. Now, the regional travel hub boasts a new terminal, four new daily flights and three new destinations in less than 24 months.
That was made possible, Davison said, due to private investments from the tourism industry and key partnerships among the airport, county leaders, Visit SLO CAL, the tourism industry, the Economic Vitality Corp. and Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong.
The growth of the airport is seen as key to the county’s economic future, helping to attract new business and new jobs as existing businesses grow. It’s a critical part of the plan for the economic future of a region that is bracing for the loss of jobs and tax revenue from the looming closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
“The last three years have been beyond reasonable expectations,” said Supervisor Adam Hill, who was introduced by Davison as a champion of the airport’s growth and of tourism.
“At this time, as we look ahead and we look at a growing economy that we need here to stay vibrant and we start to address some of the key issues from housing to how are we going to do better for our jobs and so forth, the airport has just become kind of a symbol of our resilience, of our success, of our ability to transcend what a lot of people had thought were obstacles we couldn’t transcend,” Hill said.
Hill and others said more work is ahead and they look forward to announcing additional new destinations soon.
The number of passengers traveling through the SLO’s new terminal, which opened in November 2017, continues to increase steadily, and the airport was recently named one of the fastest-growing in North America.
In 2017, the number of passengers traveling through SLO rose 23 percent, to a record-breaking total of 407,646.
That year was transformative, county director of airports Kevin Bumen said last month.
The airport introduced service to Denver via United Airlines and Seattle via Alaska Airlines, and added another fourth daily United Airlines flight to San Francisco. Then, the new $39.5 million terminal opened.
A second daily flight to and from Denver was added this April. The airport also offers flights to Los Angeles and Phoenix.
All of these improvements have come with one traveler’s woe: parking.
Piper admitted that parking is an issue, especially in October and November, which are the busiest months of the year.
The county has contracted with a consultant to perform a parking study that could lead to improvement projects, like a parking garage.