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First flight from Dallas arrives in SLO to a water-cannon salute

First flight from Dallas lands at SLO Airport

A new connecting flight between Dallas-Fort Worth and San Luis Obispo, California, debuted Tuesday, April 2, 2019. The year-round daily service now is the farthest east local fliers can travel on a non-stop flight.
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A new connecting flight between Dallas-Fort Worth and San Luis Obispo, California, debuted Tuesday, April 2, 2019. The year-round daily service now is the farthest east local fliers can travel on a non-stop flight.

San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport debuted its new nonstop service to Dallas-Fort Worth Tuesday morning to the delight of local business leaders and airport officials who championed the flights as a benefit to the local economy and tourism.

Celebrated with a water cannon salute from a yellow fire truck, the first incoming American Airlines flight arrived at the airport at about 10:30 a.m. The first departing flight to Dallas left SLO about an hour later.

The daily, nonstop service will offer one-stop access to an additional 89 other destinations, both domestic and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

Donning a cowboy hat, Texas-themed shirt and boots, SLO’s director of airports Kevin Bumen said that “Dallas opens a tremendous number” of new travel opportunities for workers and travelers to the wine country, out-of-state Cal Poly students and their families, and tourists to other SLO County destinations.

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American Airlines flight 5791 from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is greeted with a water salute from an aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle as it arrives in San Luis Obispo for the first time. The new connecting flight between Dallas-Fort Worth and San Luis Obispo, California, began Tuesday. The flight, offering year-round service, now is the farthest east local fliers can travel on a non-stop flight. Photo by Joe Johnston 04-02-19 Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Dallas is now the farthest east that local passengers can fly nonstop from SLO, and the route will help connect them to flights to Europe as well.

“Dallas-Fort Worth is an ideally situated mid-continent, eastbound hub for people going to the East Coast or beyond,” Bumen said.

The route will be flown on an Embraer 175 jet equipped with 12 first-class seats, 20 main cabin seats offering extra leg room and 44 regular main cabin seats.

While airport officials didn’t have exact data, they were told the first incoming flight was about 70 to 80 percent filled, while the departing flight was fully booked.

Margie Schingle, a SLO resident awaiting the departing flight, said that the new Dallas trip will help her to get to work destinations as a weekly air commuter.

SLO Chamber Ribbon Cutting, SLO Airport non-stop to Dallas Ft. Worth_5.jpg
Visit SLO Cal CEO Chuck Davison speaks at the podium, flanked by airport director Kevin Bumen and county supervisor Debbie Arnold after the new connecting flight between Dallas-Fort Worth and San Luis Obispo, California arrived Tuesday. The flight, offering year-round service, now is the farthest east local fliers can travel on a non-stop flight. Keri Forsberg

“I didn’t have to wake up at 4 a.m. today to get to my flight on time,” said Schingle, who works in benefits management. “This is a great convenience to have this new flight. I love it, and it will help me to keep a more regular schedule.”

Chuck Davison, president and CEO of Visit SLO CAL, a regional tourism resources and marketing organization, said in a statement that the flight is part of a goal to increase air service into SLO to strengthen local tourism, adding it’s “essential to the sustainability of our economy and overall quality of life.”

The airport now currently offers service to six U.S. cities — Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver and Dallas-Fort Worth.

San Diego, Portland, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Chicago remain on the list for potential new flight options, said Craig Piper, the deputy director of airports.

Airport officials assess the potential demand through data studies and regular meetings are held with airline officials to discuss potential options for new flights, Bumen said.

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The SLO County Regional Airport terminal lobby on the first day of the Dallas-Fort Worth to SLO flight. Keri Forsberg

The San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport recorded 485,911 passengers traveled through its doors in 2018, the agency reported, representing a 19.2 percent increase over the 407,696 passengers in 2017. The total set the record for the most annual passengers in the airport’s history.

In a statement, county Supervisor Debbie Arnold said, “I am so happy to see that the commitment to tourism and our local economy has resulted in approving our regional airport and attracting new services to more destinations.”

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.
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