United Airlines announced Monday that it will begin daily Humboldt County air service to Denver next year and passengers can start making reservations for the service on Saturday.
The daily flights are scheduled to begin on June 7, 2019, and although United declined to release any potential ticket pricing, the airline does see an opportunity.
“We will offer pricing that we believe is reflective of the demand for our product,” said United spokesman Jonathan Guerin on Monday. “We want to offer our customers more choices and more opportunities to connect to the places that matter most. Our teams are continuously reviewing opportunities to grow our domestic route network and identified there was demand for travel between Denver and ACV.”
The plane will be a 50-seat regional jet and a flight will depart ACV at 6:30 a.m. with arrival in Denver at 10 a.m. and a return flight that leaves Denver at 7 p.m. and arrives at the Humboldt County airport in McKinleyville at 8:50 p.m.
For Gregg Foster, the executive director of the Redwood Region Economic Development Commission — or RREDC — the expanded flight service is another example of the local demand for flights that led United to open the LAX flight.
“I can only talk generically, but I think they saw that by the second month those flights were well over 90 percent full and that’s pretty phenomenal,” Foster said Monday. “We started right off with a bang and historically we’ve had higher volumes. We were able to show them we could get those higher volumes like we’ve had in the past.”
Those past flights included service to Salt Lake City (2008-09) combined with the data from the current LAX flights RREDC collected, was enough to make the sale for the expansion to Denver, a hub that connects the Midwest and the East Coast to ACV.
“What we’ve seen is the really good use of the LAX flight and the strong community support we generated that convinced them Denver would be a good option,” Foster said. “I was able to show them that (Salt Lake City) flight had really good numbers and that local folks will support this Denver service. Overall, 40 percent of the traffic our airport handles is from people who don’t live here and it not only helps with business access, the leisure travel factor is easier for travelers to get here from the Midwest and East Coast.”
Foster has been recruiting airlines to provide service to the county since 2003 and in 2011 RREDC and the county formed Fly Humboldt geared toward securing daily flights to LAX.
“A nonstop flight to Denver International is a great addition to our air service options,” said Cody Roggatz, director of the Humboldt County Department of Aviation, in a news release. “We know that service to an eastern hub is a popular concept with the flying public and Denver service will become a real asset to the citizens and businesses throughout Humboldt County.”
For Foster, airline recruitment to increase local service never stops and it’s the success United has seen in selling the LAX flights that led to the Denver expansion, and it could mean more expansion in the future.
“I”m always promoting local air service and one thing I tell airlines is that if you do business in Humboldt County, you will do well,” Foster said. “In some sense, the success is in not in getting an airline started but to keep them up and running. With this community effort and coming together with a clear goal, that’s the secret to our success.”