SLO airport celebrates first flight to Las Vegas

San Luis Obispo County travelers planning a trip to Las Vegas can now fly there non-stop with the debut of the airport’s newest destination.

Contour Airlines celebrated its first flight from San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport on Thursday afternoon with a sold-out outbound trip to Sin City.

The inaugural 12:25 p.m. flight, which arrived from Vegas at 11:55 a.m., marked the first time that Tennessee-based Contour has operated in SLO since the company was founded in 1982.

One-way ticket prices range from $99 to $229 for available flights in coming days, according to Contour’s website. Tickets are now available for purchase, though some flights have been sold out.

Flights will be offered four times per week — Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday — leaving for SLO at 10:35 a.m. with the return flight to Las Vegas at 12:25 p.m.

Contour will operate 30-seat Embraer ERJ-135 aircraft that feature all-leather seating with expanded legroom, according to company officials. The flight offers complimentary snacks and beverages, and a free checked bag is included with every fare. No extra fees are charged for seat selection either.

“We look for communities we think can support our product,” Contour CEO Matthew Chaifetz said. “People should really think about the all-in price when they fly and think about how they’re getting to Las Vegas.”

Las Vegas flights are also offered out of Santa Maria by Allegiant Air and Santa Barbara by multiple airlines, including Skywest and Contour.

The first flight from Las Vegas to the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport arrived Thursday, departing for its return trip to Sin City at 12:15 p.m. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

Las Vegas flight delivers on community interest

Chaifetz said Contour operates in 10 states, and now offers five flights out of Santa Barbara, as well as flights out of other California cities such as Oakland and Sacramento, he said.

“The San Luis Obispo community has asked for direct access to Las Vegas for years, and we’re thrilled to finally be able to deliver,” Kevin Bumen, SLO airport director, said in a statement. “Adding a new destination, as well as a new airline, is an incredible success for the entire region. We’re excited to continue helping our travelers get anywhere they want to go, right from their hometown airport.”

Bumen said flights to Las Vegas from SLO last took place in the 1990s.

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Passengers board the first flight from San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to Las Vegas on Thursday. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

Chuck Davison, president and CEO of the nonprofit tourism marketing organization Visit SLO CAL, said in a statement that Las Vegas has been identified as a “key market” to “attract new visitors looking for outdoor adventure, food and wine experiences and a slower pace of life, while supporting local business development, and giving us access to a large selection of one-stop markets.

“For us at Visit SLO CAL, it’s about attracting visitors into San Luis Obispo County as a place to visit,” Davison said before the first departing Vegas flight. “Equally, when we bring on this new service, it’s a wonderful benefit not only for our residents who get to travel to the entertainment capital of the world, but also for our local businesses who are looking to connect with other regions to develop our local economy.”

Las Vegas one of many new flights at airport

Chaifetz told The Tribune he was planning to meet with Bumen to discuss potential additional flights out of SLO, but he didn’t identify specific cities.

Assistant Airport Director Craig Piper told The Tribune the airport has considered adding flights to Sacramento, Salt Lake City and possibly Chicago, with no specific plans in place yet.

Piper said 2019 marks the most heavily trafficked year of air travel in the SLO airport’s history, with 352,532 passengers flying in and out, as of the end of August, the latest data available.

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Travelers wait for the first flight from the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to Las Vegas on Thursday. Laura Dickinson The Tribune

The Las Vegas flight comes as the airport announced in June the new additions of flights to Portland and San Diego through Alaska Airlines.

The San Diego flight begins in January 2020, while Portland doesn’t kick in until June 2020.

In December 2018, the airport added a new American Airlines flight to Dallas, a hub that connects San Luis Obispo to dozens of other destinations.

Piper said Thursday the airport expects to add a second Dallas flight this winter. The airport added a second daily flight to Denver in 2018.

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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.